Leaving honey for the bees

Our hive inspection in late autumn revealed two fairly full supers (boxes) and a top super with little in it at all. For those honey affectionardos waiting to sample our bees' efforts, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until at least next season.

While there was quite a lot of capped honey in the lower boxes, to raid those could mean there's not enough left for the bees to get through winter.

Put yourself in the bees' shoes, so to speak. It's a pretty big challenge for bees to keep warm over winter. As with everything else they do, they achieve this by working together and sharing 'jobs' that ensure the survival of the colony. They form a tight huddle (cluster), move their wing muscles to keep warm and take turns at the outside of the huddle, which is the coldest place to be. Bees that aren't actively 'heating' provide insulation for those that are. Impressively, the bees maintain their brood temperature at about 35 degrees celcius, not just here (where we get a few frosts and what we think are chilly days) but even in locations that see snow, sometimes for months. They don't forage if it's too cold, so all their energy needs have to be able to be met from within the hive. Hence, their stores of honey and pollen.

So we removed the top box and left the bees with their honey stores. As the weather cooled and the foraging decreased, we also reduced the entrance, which helps keep the warmth in and the cold out.

On mild autumn days we've still seen plenty of action around the hive entrance. But when the temperatures are low, or it's raining, the bees stay inside and work at keeping warm.