As you know, Mil All Natural use golden yellow beeswax in many of our products, so as part of our conservation policy we keep honey bees and are continuing to grow and plant pollinator garden plants which we distribute to friends near and far. This year, as well as further developing our pollinator meadow, we have grown over 1000 oxeye daisy and kidney vetch plug plants which were donated to a local environmental project in order to help recreate local meadows. Oxeye daisy and kidney vetch are not used by honey bees, but we don’t mind that, it is all about the big picture, with many other insects such as hoverflies and bumblebees loving these flowers.
During winter honeybees spend most of their time in the hive (accept on very mild days they will come out for short flights). As the temperatures drop the honeybees gather in a central area of the hive and cluster together. A winter cluster sees the bees huddle tightly with the single purpose of keeping the queen bee safe and warm.
You may ask, how do bees, simple cold blooded insects, keep a hive warm? This is but another miracle of the hive, the worker bees produce heat by shivering. To be more precise, they actually beat muscles that would normally power their wings. The heat they produce is extraordinary with some bees able to increase their own body temperature to 44 degrees C! This constant motion and continuous use of energy is how the bees keep the inside temperature of the hive warm.
Of course all central heating systems need fuel to run them and in the beehive the heating bill is paid for in honey. Honey is packed with energy and it is for this reason that the most important job of a beekeeper, prior to winter, is making sure that enough honey is left in the hive for the bees!.
At this time of year our bees are safe within their hives. Where we live on the north Coast of Ireland it can get very stormy and wet, so making sure the hives are leak free is a must. Early in the New Year, we will leave in some bee fondant (a sugary icing) into hives that maybe a little low in honey, this is a simple way of topping up the hive with energy. We only do this when we need to, we believe the bee’s own honey is always best.
Between November and March the beekeeper has little to do, but carry out repairs to spare hives and wait for the time when the bees begin to emerge and resume their wonderful work of pollinating plants and gathering nectar.