If we look hard enough we will soon start seeing the days growing longer and the bees will start responding and commence with some brood rearing as fresh pollen becomes available. Next Month we must begin to monitor our hives to see if they have adequate food reserves to get them through the last stage of the winter.
There have been some members concerned about finding dead bees outside and around the hives...just make sure entrances are kept clear so that bees can get out as small entrances can soon become blocked!
It is quite normal to find some bees here and there.
Another thing to watch out for is dampness under the roof especially after all the rain and snow. This can be a real problem if roofs are not water tight. Also be on the guard as 'clued up' woodpeckers can damage a hive in no time. Mice can also move in especially through unprotected entrances.
There have been some reports coming in of some colony losses. Possible causes could be down to colonies going into winter in a poor condition or colonies that have entered winter with not many bees or stores. Beginners it seems are being tempted to open hives to see if all is well and I would like to stress that it is better not to intervene just yet...If colonies were fed adequately in the autumn and treated for Varroa in August and the hives feel heavy to the touch by hefting, this is a good sign. On a warmer day, a quick rap with the knuckles on the side of the hive should give a clear indication if all is well inside.... If the bees respond with a short roar/buzz which dies down quickly this is excellent. If the sound persists this could mean queenlessness and if you hear nothing well....
I have just had a quick look yesterday (Jan 26th) and have found a couple of colonies with less than a handful of bees and these did go into winter as a very large colonies. Again is there any reason? They were adequately treated and plenty of food is still in the hive but the bees have gone? Where? Another colony started buzzing and the noise from within did not die down - possibly queenless?
... Could these deaths be Nosema ceranae? Certainly no sign of many dead bees anywhere?
I am going to take a hard line this year. I will let the bees be and not pamper them with extra feed in the spring... If they make it then they are suitable candidates and perhaps more resistant to our UK weather conditions rather than all these other, possibly imported strains, not adapted or so disease resistant as our locally raised bees. This is the stance I took many years ago and after their autumn feed and treatments colonies were left well alone until beginning April. Like so many others I hardly ever lost a colony over winter it was a very rare occurrence, which now seems a much greater than ever before.
It will be interesting to see if beekeepers who have been treating with Fumidil B (for Nosema) have a better over wintering rate than beekeepers who have not? (I personally do not want to go down this route and have not treated for 15 years or more).
If you do loose a colony make sure you block the entrance to prevent access to other bees until a thorough diagnostic inspection can be made.
If you have any queries please to not hesitate and contact a local representative first.
Before I forget; a quick reminder - Welwyn subscriptions if not paid, are due in by February next month. If not received you will unfortunately no longer receive any further correspondence from the Welwyn beekeeping Association. I would therefore like to thank everyone for their support last year who helped renew interest in our division and we look forward to some new and interesting social events that we will be introducing this year.
I look forward to seeing you all again this year,
Best Wishes for 2010.