Getting ready for winter. 

It’s been very cold here in the mornings and it’s motivated me to think of my bees. 

Now they are in my village I am able to visit much easier. In fact I have become a cycling beekeeper. Monday saw Miss C and I riding across the field. Me with a bag of suit and mouseguards and her with a bike basket full of folded woodpecker cages. 

Miss C was so convinced she did not want to be noticed, even though her friends would/should have been in school, that she insisted on wearing dark glasses so she couldn’t be recognised. It’s apparently that embarrassing to be seen with a beekeeper. I would point out that I was not wearing full suit and veil but apparently my gardening coat is embarrassment enough! 

The view across the fields on an autumn day. 

The bees were sitting in full sun and a number were flying around. Even in colder weather bees will leave the hive around midday. They are tidy creatures and like to leave waste away from the hive. Neighbours of beekeepers will be well aware of the small brown piles splattered on their cars if parked in the bees flight path! Dead bees and hive rubbish is also cleared out in the better weather.

The first job was to attach a mouseguard to the front of each hive. Drawing pins in each corner secure them and it’s just a matter of making sure the holes align with the entrance so the bees can still come and go but mice are stopped from making nests in the corners of the boxes. Mice can do a lot of damage to combs and while the bees are in a huddle they will not defend the hive against them. 

I often don’t put my woodpecker cages on until later in the winter but this is a new design for me and I wanted to try it out. I used to build a wooden frame and wrap that in net but my Bee Buddy swapped to this idea as he got older and it certainly is easier to fit. 

Just small hole wire shaped around the hive and tied at the back. I hope I will even be able to lift the roof to add fondant without removing it. This will save a lot of time and inconvenience. 

Unfortunately he didn’t use landing boards quite like mine and I hadn’t taken that into account. A bit of reshaping was needed on one hive to take the width of that into account.

The hive I had to unite in September is far to big and needs a different idea. I’m still working on that but I’m sure I’ll think of something. When I first approached it all was quiet but as I attached the guard a lot of bees appeared. I am trialling an open mesh floor on this hive and am a bit worried about draught so it was good to know they are still alive and well. 

I hope the bees will work their way through the stored honey from the bottom. Moving to warmer frames higher up as it gets colder. Come the spring the idea is that the queen will then be at the top, ready to start laying in the warmest part of the hive. I can then break the hive down to a more manageable size. This queen has been amazing this year so I hope for good things from her in 2018. 
My new apiary is a mixed blessing. It’s local but isolated. Protected from weather but also from view. It’s difficult to decide whether I’m happy with it yet. There has been some trouble with organised dog fighting and hare coursing in the area and this week someone has dumped a huge pile of rubbish at its main entrance.

 I’m guessing my winter might be challenging this year but only time will tell. For now I’m just enjoying being a cycling beekeeper! 

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