Winter works in the apiary

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Having covered hives with snow you shouldn’t dig it out especially if frosty weather is expected. Between the walls of hives and snow there are gaps 5-6 cm thick which allow air get into hives through a bee entrance. The colonies need a sunny exposure and protection from cold winds. In winter snow coat is a good protection against low temperatures. There is no risk of hive moistening, as hives have been inclined a bit forwards. Water from melting snow flows down along the hive without getting into a broodnest. For this reason ice that can cork up doesn’t form. As rule a hive prepared in this way is in a snowdrift.

A hive can be opened only when snow has covered with a crust of ice or temperature heightens and there is a possibility that bees will be shivering. If in a day time the sun shines but the temperature is low and nights are cold, then you shouldn’t dig the hive out, instead you can make a hole for a bee entrance in a crust. At the same time you shouldn’t delay digging out the hive as the melting of snow increases dampness outside as well as inside hives. Complicates surviving winter for bees. If snowfalls are often it is not advisable to sweep snow from hives as it alarms bees.

In some regions if winter is snowless then titmice and woodpeckers can attack hives. If hives are put in special places for keeping bees in winter not adapted for this purpose measures directed at rodent control should be taken: setting out poisoned baits and mouse traps. In practice feeding bees up by hard fodder, such as candy, sugar candy, is widely used. Some beekeepers give fodder at the end of December or at the beginning of January irrespective of the fact whether bees have enough feed. The reason for this is to play it safe, without realising the damage that is caused. If hives have been properly prepared since autumn and families have been supplied with sufficient amount of feed, a broodnest is properly made, bees don’t need any feed supplement. Winter feed supplement stimulates bees’ activity. They increase the temperature in a hive and some bees separate from the shivering cluster, and freeze. Digesting and assimilating hard feed bees become active. Appearing of eggs forces them to maintain a high temperature in the broodnest for the development of eggs and larvae. Maintaining temperature and feeding larvae exhaust a bee family. As a result strong families grow weak and feeble families can die at the end of winter. Such a feeding doesn’t help bee families to develop but kills them. That’s why it is advisable to feed bees at the time of spring by stimulating feed supplements. But when bees exhaust their food supply or their nest is wrongly made, the family starves and can die of hunger and a beekeeper should feed it in winter. In this case honey in frames is preferable even settled, but not hard types of newly made feed. So bees receive ready feed, and don’t have to metabolise sugar. Feeding by honey even crystallised prevents bees from physiological deterioration.

If candy has been properly prepared in autumn, then by spring the processes of converting saccharose into glucose and fructose will have finished. Such feedings are of good quality and don’t do any visible harm to bees.

Thus so that bees could survive winter they should be prepared in proper time. If the colonies are well prepared in the fall they need little attention during the winter. But in early spring, an examination of the colonies by the beekeeper is important. Frequently, strong colonies exhaust their food supply and starve only a few days before plants begin to bloom in abundance. Only a few pounds of sugar syrup, 50-50 sugar water, or a honey-filled comb from another more prosperous colony might save such a starving colony. Again fumagillin may be fed to the colony, and some beekeepers also feed a cake of pollen substitute or pollen supplement. Honey is not fed to the colonies unless the beekeeper is sure about its source. Honey from colonies affected by the brood disease American foulbrood, caused by a spore-forming bacterium, Bacillus larvae, could infect his colonies and cause a serious loss.

V. Efimov

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English translation © Irina Yelsukova