swears by the maggots. You could always go into bait production instead of honey!
At this time of the year we are continuing to make the preparations for our colonies to overwinter. Last month we considered combining weak colonies and this involves moving them so that they are next to each other – you cannot move a beehive more than one metre or less than 5 km (three miles) as the bees will always return to their original site.
The reason for not moving bees more than one metre unless it’s over 5 km is that bees orientate themselves to their home. You will see new foragers hovering around the hive and flying in ever-increasing circles as they ‘fix’ their position.
If a hive is moved a short distance, less than a metre, the bees will find the hive entrance. It may seem surprising but they do not find their hive entrance if it is moved even a short distance above a metre and will cluster at the old position.
When foragers are out, they navigate using several methods including visual recognition of landmarks and the polarised light from the sun and will fly home. Their average flying range is about 2.5 km (1.5 miles) so if they are moved to anywhere within a radius of 5 km (3 miles) from their home, their flight will overlap the old territory, they’ll recognise it and return home.
If, however, they are moved outside this range, they will realise that they have lost their home orientation and will take a new fix on the new site. After three weeks or so, any flying bees which came from the old site will have died off, leaving only bees which have no knowledge of the old site. The hive can then be moved back to a place which is more than one metre from whence it came in the original apiary.
Similarly, if a hive is moved one metre at a time then the bees will adapt but it has to be done slowly or older bees still return to where they were. The old adage is ‘under three feet or over three miles’ but it doesn’t have the same ring in kilometres…
We should also continue to ensure that our bees have enough food for the winter and if we have a colony which is looking a bit short we must feed it. In an earlier article, I simplified the amounts but strictly speaking the concentration of light syrup at one pound of sugar to one pint of water equates to one kilo of sugar to 630 ml of water, and heavy syrup, at two pounds to a pint, becomes one kilo to 1.25 litres of water.
You don’t have to be precious about it as long as you remember that light syrup is easier for the bees to eat and heavy syrup is easier for the bees to store.
The active beekeeping season always seems to flash by but there is always something to do in each month to ensure the well-being of our honey bees. Just don’t mention Christmas yet – unless to anticipate all those interesting bee books, gadgets and thingamabobs which might appear in the stocking after Santa’s visit … ä