Fringe Box



Beekeeper’s Notes December 2016: What Do Beekeepers Do In The Winter?

Published on: 1 Dec, 2016
Updated on: 5 Dec, 2016

Hugh Coakley keeps bees in Worplesdon. In the latest of his monthly notes, he talks about what beekeepers are supposed to do in the winter (but don’t always).

It is bitterly cold now. Minus 8 degrees Celsius this morning outside my house.


Leaving the house early and scraping the windscreen is not something that I will miss when I give up work.

For some reason, our street is about 3 degrees colder than the main road 500m away. It is not as if we are not in a dip or in a particularly windy spot but when it gets cold, we get it with knobs on.

The bees, who were flying and foraging up to mid-November, are not to be seen outside of the hive.

Like sensible creatures, they are tucked up in a nice tight ball in the hive. Only moving when they want to get inside the cluster to get warm rather than being out in the cold, keeping the others nice and toasty.

We humans still have to go out to forage down at the Co-op or to earn our keep at ‘t mill. But bees don’t. They have all they need to keep going till the spring comes.

But from a beekeeping point of view, there isn’t much going on.

The books say this is the time to be cleaning and maintaining equipment or read beekeeping books. I do that when I absolutely have to but I am really not too keen.

I’d rather read a good crime novel or something with a historical bent. I’m reading a fantastic series of historical novels by Conn Iggulden on Julius Caesar. Good swashbuckling stuff but with enough historical background in it to make it seem educational and me feel virtuous.

But, back to the bees – not much going on. Not much except keeping an eye on the hives, hefting them occasionally to check that they still have stores to be getting on with, doing a bit of varroa control – keeping the little pests in check with a dose of oxalic acid solution – and planning for the spring when it all starts up again.

Happy days.

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