The Apiary Year - December

Sheep in a snow field.
It may be December and it may be cold out there but there are still tasks to do in the apiary. Check the hive entrances.
Are they blocked with snow or dead bees. If it is snow then you must be in a colder part of the country than I am. If it is dead bees then do not worry. This is a time of year when the colony may be reducing in size so that there are less mouths to feed over the winter. Just clear them out of the way so that bees can get out if we get any warmer days. Dead bees around the entrance are also a sign that there are live bees inside since otherwise there would be none to "bring out the dead". The removal of dead bees takes place to a lesser degree all year but in the winter there are fewer scavengers to remove the bodies.

Check the rest of the hive for holes.
In the case of my hive I have had an issue with the sections warping in this very wet weather. As a result there are gaps between the sections. These I will stuff up with paper and then hold it in place with tape. Hopefuly the bees may be able to provide more insulation on the inside.

Treat for varroa.
It is too late to use something like Apiguard since that requires a warmer temperature to vapourise the varroacide. However there it is possible to treat hives at this time with oxalic acid which can be vapourised and introduced to the hive or it can be dribbled in acoss the frames. This is more complicated topic so there is a separate page on Varroa treatment. What ever treatment you give the hive then make a note of it. Many treatments have to be recorded by law and all treatments should be recorded simply so that you know what worked for you and when.

Heft the hives.
It is reckoned that a hive requires a minimum of 30lbs of stores to see it through the winter. That is the equivalent of 6 or more full brood frames of stores. This is reckoned to be a minimum and a more is desirable. It is too late to feed them syrup. If you introduce syrup at this stage it is likely that it will ferment and give the bees digestive issues. In addition the syrup may drip on the colony as we get warmer days and then colder nights. If the bees do take down some of the syrup then they will expend a lot of energy trying to remove the water. Better at this stage to make certain that they have fondant available. There is a recipe for fondant on the recipe page.

Clean your equipment.
Now is the time to clean all the equipment thoroughly. Anything that can be washed should be washed in a solution of washing soda. Anything that can be charred should get the once over with the blow torch – paying particular attention to the cracks and joints. Anything else might benefit from a few days in the freezer - but you are more likely to be able to do that after Xmas when you are not competing with a turkey for freezer space.

Make a Xmas present list.
Look through your equipment. What would make your work with the bees easier or more fun? Perhaps it is time to treat yourself to a new hive tool. In my case I am considering a refractometer.

Register on Beebase.
Estimates of how many of bee keepers are on Beebase vary but if you are not registered on Beebase then that is one too many.

Well that is enough for December in the apiary - and you thought you could join the bees and take a break.