Now we are into February it is important to check the weight of colonies. Over the past week I have taken the roof off each of my colonies and lifted the brood box. This gives me a very good indication of the weight of each box. Most colonies felt quite heavy still but some I decided to feed with fondant. The Association has recently bought boxes of fondant which contain 5 packs each weighing 2.5kgs. (Supermarket fondant may contain additives so I avoid using them as they may be harmful to bees.) These blocks are ideal and easy to cut in half. Leaving the plastic around the fondant prevents it from drying out but bees can access it from where the block is cut. My preference is to place this slab over the bee cluster with a shallow eke to provide space for the block. The crown board then sits on the eke thereby keeping the volume the bees need to warm to a minimum. However, some colonies were all over the top bars so the block of fondant was placed over the crown board (to prevent squashing) and as close to the bees as possible by a feed hole. The shallow eke was then placed on the crown board.
Most of the colonies that needed feeding were Nationals although a couple of Commercials were fed as they were not very heavy. The important point here is that the next couple of months are the danger time for colonies as they start to consume more stores each day. When daytime temperatures are consistently above 10c I shall feed light colonies syrup using a small tray feeder as these are easy to apply and keep the colony going long enough until there is forage available.
One other item to check is the hive entrance. Sometimes they become blocked with dead bees which need clearing to allow forages to leave the hive. Small point but important.
This week I completed maintenance of my supers by scraping top and bottom bars. All spare equipment will be painted with a wood treatment well before they are needed so they will have had enough time to air. Once the season starts it is often too late to carry out these jobs so I am trying to have spare kit ready and waiting for transport to the apiaries.
The season is not too far away and, the trading day at Flitwick at the end of the month can be considered the starting point for the season.
Here’s hoping for better weather than last year.