Thursday, 7 January 2010

Extreme cold weather

A Happy New Year to all YABeePers

I have just been contacted by one of our group who, given the spell of extreme cold weather we have experienced over the last 2 to 3 weeks, was concerned whether there is anything that should be done to help the bees through it.

The short and very clear answer is NO, leave them alone. Probably the worst thing you can do just now is to interfere with them in any way – just leave them to their own devices and trust to luck.

Looking into the hive
Please don’t be tempted to open the hive or even take a peek in the window if you have one fitted - I suggest that you don’t peek until about March and then only on a warm day. It’s not the cold that kills bees - they have mechanisms to deal with it – remember they have survived millions of years of evolution without our help. If you were to take a peek you wouldn’t see anything anyway – they will have formed a winter cluster away from the window and the sight of nothing will only worry you more as well as having let in the cold and light. Leave well alone.

There is no need to clear this off your hives as snow provides some natural insulation against the sever cold. If we get a particularly warm day whilst there is still snow around you may spot dead or dying bees on the ground around the entrance. This will be bees that have been tempted outside the hive by the brightness that have chilled and are unable to get back in – there is nothing you can do so don’t worry, probably best not to even look.

Adding any artificial heat or further insulation will only warm the hive and bring them out of cluster too soon. The danger of this is that it may encourage them to break cluster and tempt them outside to their deaths.

It’s a worrying time for beekeepers especially as with the warm autumn we have just had we have been used to seeing them flying, and even been bringing in pollen, very late in the year. Indeed, I have just checked my records and can confirm that one of our hives had many flying bees taking advantage of a break in the cold weather and flying on Boxing Day -26th December! 

Hopefully you will see your bees taking cleansing flights (they need to relieve themselves after all ) when we get warmer spells. It’s far too late to do anything to help them now so please leave alone and don’t worry!


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