It may be -2 and white outside the hive, but inside the bees will be huddling together in a cluster and vibrating their wings to create warmth. A layer of snow on the roof of the hive may even help to insulate it further against the cold. In fact the hive may be so toasty it could attract mice looking for a cosy spot to bed down, so you’ll need to guard against such intruders by fastening with nails a galvanised strip of metal called a mouse guard over the hive’s entrance.
The main worry at this time of year is whether the bees have enough honey to see them through the cold spell when the temperature is too low for them to leave the hive and forage is scare.
You can get an indication of the amount of honey they have by ‘hefting’ the hive. You do this by lifting the hive with one hand at the back of the hive just slightly off its stand. If you heft your hives at intervals during the winter you’ll get a better idea of how it compares to the autumn when you left them 30lbs of stores. Given the mild winter we were experiencing until a week OK, the bees should be fine and the hive should be hard to lift.
Once the cold spell is over, your bees will want to get out of the hive to defecate. You may have to help them exit by clearing the entrance which may be clogged by bees that have died naturally during the winter. Don’t panic if you see lots of dead bees around the hive during the winter. Remember their life span is short.
If they come out on a sunny day while snow is still on the ground, clear the snow around the hive to prevent your bees getting confused about which way up to fly. Apparently that can happen because of the way snow reflects the sky.
Now’s a good time to do a stock check and list what new equipment you’ll need for the spring. If you are coming into your second year a new brood box with frames and foundation is a must for when you give your hive a spring clean.
It was a challenging year for UK beekeeper’s even if you were not working your bees for honey but if you were the yields were low.
The BBKA’s report gives some details.
Have just made a delivery of honey to A Gold in Spitalfields E1. Despite the scarcity of honey this year due to the wet summer, we are delighted to be able to supply this delightful deli with a few jars of honey from our King’s Cross hives. They have stocked our Battersea honey for a number of years, and have sang its praises, but now that Urban Bees has moved east we no longer have hives in that part of London. Hope they like King’s Cross honey just as much.
Our map that links landless beekeepers with people who want to host hives is in the news today thanks to the support of the Co-op which has invested in it to promote beekeeping.
Your honey is still the one to beat on taste! (A. Gold in Spitalfields, EC1)
Battersea Honey – A Poem
It’s right on the money,
Just having a spoon
Will make you feel sunny!!
“This year’s Battersea honey (2009) by all accounts tastes fantastic. One of our customers said it was the best honey they had ever tasted. We have also been told it beats Greek honey.”
Just some of the comments people have made about our honey over the years. Can’t wait to taste the 2012 batch…
Yesterday I saw hundreds of our bees on the ivy flowers. They love the ivy nectar at this time of year when little else is around. Before we kept honey bees I didn’t even know that ivy had flowers! Now I always advise people to keep an ivy-clad wall somewhere in the garden, or not to cut back any ivy before it’s flowered in late summer.
Went to the launch of the Bee Collective last night in Victoria. Using a honey extraction service for beekeepers to fund more bee-friendly green spaces in London is a really neat idea. I hope it catches on. Urban Bees supplied the honey for the launch. You can read my Guardian blog about it here
Good luck the Bee Collective.
I’m going to Scotswood Natural Community Garden in Newcastle tomorrow. Newcastle featured strongly in Bees in the City because the council was leading an initiative to make the city bee-friendly. When I went up to research the book, Scotswood had just got European funding for 6 hives on its 2 acre site and to offer free beekeeping classes. It will be fascinating to see how it’s going. Is urban beekeeping as popular in the north-east as it is in London? Do they face the same challenges and how are their bees coping with this wet summer? They have a good blog about their bee project with useful information about bee-friendly plants. They’ve asked me to speak about urban beekeeping but I’ve got lots of questions to ask them. I’m really looking forward to seeing the garden. It sounds similar to the wonderful Camley Street Nature Park in King’s Cross where we keep our bees.
I am also going to meet up with Geraldine Wright from Newcastle University to find out how her research into the nutritional value of different pollens is going.
Message from National Bee Unit
April 2012 – Starvation Risk
With the on-going poor weather, there is a real risk of bee colonies starving. Please check for stores in the colony and if in any doubt feed your bees. You should feed with either a fondant or a thin syrup.
Further information on feeding bees can be found in Best Practice Guideline No. 7, on the Advisory Leaflets page of BeeBase (click here).
Another great source of early spring pollen is the willow. The bees were able to take advantage of the sunny, warm day and were all over this tree. I managed to get some photos.
London 23rd Feb 2012
I knew that the bees were going to be out today since the temperature reached 18 degrees today in London (Feb 23rd) and indeed all the hives were busy with bees flying and bring back pollen.
I had a look around to see what they might be working and no surprise to see the bees on the hazel catkins. They were loving it. It is such an important plant for early pollen.
So I took some snaps which can be seen on the gallery pages of our website. www.urbanbees.co.uk/gallery
The crocus are just coming out, the winter honeysuckle has bees on it and the hazel catkins are nearly ready with their pollen so it time to clear some space and make up some brood frames in preparation of the brood comb change and the spring clean.
And that is what I have been doing for the past hour.
I’m getting itchy now to get on with my beekeeping.
No more cold weather now, please.
Saw my first flying bumblebees of 2012 today.
These two were visiting these flowers near Victoria Station in the centre of the urban jungle in London. (map)
Saw her first.
and a moment later she came along too.
Trying to get the name of the plant.
Lovely book for all lovers of bees, bugs and flowers.
The Bee Garden: How to Create or Adapt a Garden To Attract and Nurture Bees at http://tinyurl.com/6u6sblm
Check this programme out. It a series of 3 programmes on BBC2 Feb 2011.
Broadcaster and gardener Sarah Raven is on a mission to halt the rapid decline in the UK’s essential bees, butterflies and pollinating insects.
We know our bee map is widely used. But we’re never quite sure how successful it is matching beekeepers without a suitable hive location with hive hosters, so it was nice to hear from Kate Ulrick at the Quaker Meeting House.
After putting up a marker on the map earlier this year she was contacted a few weeks later by Louis who had a hive full of bees and all the equipment. Kate is the warden at the Quaker Meeting House just off St Martins Lane in London’s west end. She lives on site and wanted to keep bees in the garden there. Louis was delighted to have a location so near to the abundant forage of St James’ park. He’d been using the map for a while to find a site for his bees. “It was a pleasure to discover the map contained a wealth of good locations with friendly and enthusiastic people”, he says.
Members of the Quaker community have been invited to look at the hive which is an usual apemaye hive – a big plastic box designed in Turkey – which some predict is the future of beekeeping.
In the spring, Kate says they may engage a small interested group to help with basic hive maintenance. “I recognised the potential of developing beekeeping into more of a community project,” she says. “There is lots of interests from the community of Quakers. However, the space that the hive is located in at the moment, doesn’t leave much room for crowding round”. Louis says he will be collaborating with his hosts on all aspects of beekeeping including the harvesting and consumption of any future honey.
We look forward to hearing about their progress in 2012. Hopefully their story may encourage other people to use the Urban Bees map to provide a home for a beekeeper and his beehive.
A colleague just told me that he had a fright on Saturday night when he hard a noisy buzzing sound coming from his right shoulder. He run into the garden, pulled off his jumper in a panic (he is not a beekeeper) and shook the jumper until a large bumblebee fell to the ground. It was sunny during the day in London, so I assume she’d be lured out of her nest by the warm rays and then ended up in his house later attracted by the central heating. She would obvioulsy die from the cold after being shaken from my colleagues jumper, so this mild weather can’t be good for the bumblebee population. Yet bees have been around for millions of year and this can’t be the only warm November they’ve experienced. So let’s hope they’ll be OK.
We had a fruitful meeting with Kathryn Lwin of River of Flowers.
They are doing some great work for the pollinators.
She’s busy sucking up some spilt honey.
This picture was taken earlier in the year when the Capital Bee trainees were getting ready to have a look at their bees.