Beekeeping Information Centre

Bee Craft Timely Reminder – February 1st 2017 – Bees are in danger of starving!

Not a pretty site – bees head down in the cells searching for the last scrap of honey. Photo: Dinah Sweet

Not a pretty site – bees head down in the cells searching for the last scrap of honey. Photo: Dinah Sweet

Bees are in danger of starving!

Be ready to act if your colonies are in danger of starvation. If it is cold, be aware of the risk of isolation starvation.

It’s usual that if you heft your hives regularly you may notice a sudden loss of weight in early spring (yes, as early as February) when the bees start to become active again. However, a warm start to the winter has meant that many colonies were using more stores than usual and beekeepers have been reporting hives going light.

In February you will often see your bees flying on bright days, but do not be fooled – they will be collecting pollen for the brood that they are already raising, there will be little or no nectar out there. They are totally dependent on their honey stores, or the fondant you feed them if their stores are running low.

During a cold spell the bees may well cluster, but if they are already short of stores and the temperature stays cold, isolation starvation may become an issue. This is where the cluster becomes isolated from the remaining stores and it is too cold for the bees to break from the cluster to collect the stores. What to do?

If you suspect this could be a problem, you can feed fondant or candy. It is best to place this right over the cluster, underneath the crown board. Choose a time when the sun is shining and there is no wind, have your fondant ready and make sure it is rolled thin enough and going to fit under the crown board – or have an eke or empty super ready to place over the brood box. Then lift the crown board, check the location of the cluster and place the fondant, before putting the hive back together.

If you take off the roof and can see the cluster immediately below one of the holes in the crown board, you can place a small amount of fondant into the hole to rest on the frames below and form a bridge up to the rest of the fondant which you can place over the hole.

There is more information about feeding bees here.


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