Well we are almost into February and many of us are wondering how our bees have fared over the winter. Now is not the time to find out!
Having had some cold spells it may now feel a lot warmer to you. Perhaps you are even used to the cold as you have not put the heating on for the last two weeks. However it is not warm enough yet to open the hive. it is recommended that a hive is not opened fully unless the air temperature is at least 13C - and it is certainly not there yet.
What can you do now? Well if the day is sunny why not go and see what the bees are up to. Are they just going out on cleansing flights?
For those not aware of cleansing flights they are the equivalent of being snug in bed and realising that you need to go to the loo - but it is just too cold to get out of bed. Well bees are similar. They keep the hive at no less than 5C and the queen is in the middle of the cluster at nearer 30C. Very snug.
Bees can clench their bottoms and go many weeks without leaving the hive in the cold weather. When it does get warm enough to leave the hive they go out on "cleansing flights" and after several weeks in the hive this must be the comfort break to end all comfort breaks!
Those same flights may also give the bees an opportunity to remove dead bees from the hive as well as any other rubbish which has accumulated over the winter.
If you see cleansing flights happening you can be optimistic that the colony is in good order. You may even see pollen being brought in - another good sign.
If there is no movement then assume the worst but do nothing. I have heard of beekeepers who knock on the hive to see if they can hear movement. Do not do this. It takes a lot of energy for a cluster of bees to make a sound you can hear. At this time of year they do not have that energy to spare.
What you can do is heft the hive. Does it feel as if it is the right weight? If not perhaps add some fondant but disturb the hive as little as possible.
So if you cannot yet open the hive then what can you look forward to?
Wednesday 15th February - Social at the Colliton Club 7:00pm to 9:00 pm. Just come along and chat.
Saturday 11th March Dorset County AGM at Colliton Club at 2:00pm - with a speaker.
Friday 21st April to Sunday 23rd April BBKA Spring Convention in Shropshire
Sunday 4th June - Thomas Hardy Street Fair - always looking for volunteers to help.
Saturday 15th July - Beefest - watch this space.
Saturday 2nd September to Sunday 3rd September - Dorset County Show.
Well I hope that has given you something to look forward to.