Winter stores, will my honey bees have enough food?
Feeding sugar syrup of 1 to 1 with water is the norm for many traditional beekeepers and with the mixed summer this practice is sadly being used more regularly than normal or required!
As a natural beekeeper, I treat our Warre Beehives and Horizontal hives more like a nest box for a bird: minimum interference, letting nature take its course and the survival of the fittest. I do, however, monitor our hives landing board bee behaviour, listen and smell to ensure the hive is strong and healthy. Only when these external signals indicate concern would I carry out an internal inspection of the hive.
All the time now I seek to judge if the bees have foraged another stores for the winter. Inspection windows prove vital for viewing rows of comb filled with capped honey.
Since late July there seems to have been some catch up by the bees, however the bees stores can just as easily and rapidly decline again if we are subjected to a sustained period of rain, say during the relatively mild month of September for example.
Natural Beekeeping Beehive Report-
Our Warre Beehive and Horizontal Beehive status for late August is as-
A-2 off Warre Beehives, 3 box high configuration, currently has 1.5 to 2 boxes of honey stores.
B- 1 off Warre Beehive, 4 box configuration, 2.5 to 3 Boxes of honey stores, the bees have built right to the bottom of the fourth box. (In a reasonable bee harvesting year I would see all my Warre beehives as 4 box high.)
C- 1 off Horizontal Topbar beehive, they have over 10 combs of stores, (I stopped looking at this point to minimise disruption) sufficient if not excess for the winter.
In theory you could harvest excess honey from hives B & C, however due to the unpredictable springs and summers we are having recently I have decided to leave all stores on the hives. Any harvesting of truly excess honey will have to wait to spring 2013 starts proper. (The winter weather is often not a problem, its when Spring starts or not next year that is our real concern.)
Judging winter stores, to feed or not to feed are difficult decisions for new natural beekeepers, if in doubt do use our “Natural Beekeeping Helpline” we will be pleased to help.