During the bees’ first year at the Pierhead we are not expecting much honey, but they have settled in and are in good health. Staff volunteers monitor the hives once a week, and we are also lucky enough to have a couple of members of staff with their own apiaries who bring a wealth of knowledge to maintaining the hives.
Despite being only a few months into the project the two hives are already demonstrating their own unique personalities, with Hive 2 definitely hosting a much rowdier crowd!
The bees spent the autumn slimming down their numbers and building up their foodstock to make the over-wintering process as efficient as possible.
After our last inspection of them in November it was important not to open the hive and let them cool down too much. They then spent the winter using up the food they’d stored in the cells, most of which will have been delicious honey. Huddled together in the hive and vibrating their wings for warmth, they manage to keep the core temperature a toasty 35 degrees! The bees will even rotate as a group- to keep the queen warm in the middle and ensure they all spend their fair share on the outside.
To help the bees get through the long winter and into spring before more natural food appears, we provided the bees with some fondant- a sugar based food rather like icing sugar. You can see from the images below how they made use of it through February, March, and into April:
We also made some other provisions for the hives over winter. As well as checking they had enough food we strapped them down to protect against high winds, and also fitted mouse guards. Mice will love the warm dry space in the middle of winter, especially when it’s full of honey!
Our small efforts, coupled with the bees natural survival skills, meant the two hives made it through into spring safely. We’ve checked on them to look at their food supply and health, as well as rearrange their frames a bit to ensure they have enough space. They’re out foraging round the Bay now- enjoying the wealth of tree blossom and flowers the warm weather has brought.