Autumn descends

By | November 18, 2012

Mouseguards keeps unwanted furry rodents out of the hive

Mouseguards keeps unwanted furry rodents out of the hive

Now mid-November, the majority of hive preparation should be complete.
The days are cooler, darker, windier, and wetter – the opposite of the beehive favourite. During autumn and winter, the bees stay inside the warm & dry hive, with their honey stores, and wait out the cooler weather.

Mice too, would like a warm and dry to place to sleep out the winter months, and a mouse guard is a wise addition to the winter hive. There are holes enough for bees to do the odd “personal hygiene” flight on a still dry winters day, but not holes enough for a mouse to climb inside.

A hive filled with nutritious honey, wax, insects (and their larvae) is also a tasty target for green wood peckers. I’ve used some chicken wire to prevent wood peckers from drilling into the side of the hive and eating the contents – a drilled hole would also have the effect of an open window, quite undesirable to maintaining hive warmth and dryness.

Green wood pecker protection, with a chicken wire surround

Green wood pecker protection, with a chicken wire surround

Worker bees in summer live for only around 6 weeks – yet the autumn and winter months span more like 6 months.. and the queen lays less eggs during the cooler months… so how does the colony make it through to the spring? In fact, a bee’s life expectancy is dependent more on its flight odometer, than an age span. During winter, bees fly much less than summer, and so have a longer life.

For the beekeeper, autumn and winter can be an anxious time especially for new beekeepers, with the colony dependent on your spring and summer hive management. The acid test is April, with success gauged by a colony surviving winter with enough food stores and a healthy population. The months in between require patience, and quiet self confidence in your hive and colony management abilities.
It’s also an ideal time to brush up on courses, and further training.


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