With winter on its way, our resident beekeeper Andrew Bailey has been making serious preparations for the coming months to ensure the bees in our hives at the Rough Close Works site in Derbyshire, have the very best chance of survival. Here’s his latest report from the apiary:

Over recent weeks I’ve been ensuring any weak colonies at the Rough Close Works hives have been united with stronger colonies to really heighten the bees’ survival chances for the winter. I’ve also been feeding them fondant which they store in their cells as a source of food as the weather turns.

We now have five hives on site, and on Monday 14th October I checked each for levels of stored fondant. One hive had taken down about 6kg of fondant, so I replaced this with a block of equal size. Another had used almost half its stores, so I supplied more to replenish the stocks.

Keeping stocks up

Throughout the months leading to spring I will visit the EPC-UK hives about once a month to check the level of food in each colony. There are fewer sights more upsetting for a beekeeper than a colony dying out because of starvation. Unfortunately, this does happen from time to time even when there is an abundant supply of food in the hive. This is called isolation starvation and sadly, it happened to one of my best colonies early this year.

Despite there being pounds of honey in their hive, the colony were in cluster and just didn’t move over to the food, so tragically they died out. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this doesn’t happen to the hives at Rough Close Works.

Winter health check

All the bees have been treated for varroa mite so will go into the winter in good health. I have also put mouse guards on each hive to prevent mice or shrews entering the hives in the cold weather. Mice and shrews occasionally enter hives, drawn by the warmth produced by the colony in cluster. If the bees are in cluster during a cold snap, the entrance could be unguarded, and a mouse or shrew can devastate the honeycomb and food supplies.

Mouse and shrew damage prevention

These little mammals will also urinate and defecate in the hive rendering the comb unusable. So, prevention being better than a cure, I have fitted each colony with a mouse guard. These are strips of metal with several 8mm diameter holes drilled along the length. The strips allow the bees to continue flying in and out of the hive but prevent unwanted visitors from gaining access.

All being well, the practices I’ve put in place over the past few weeks will ensure that all, if not the majority, of the colonies will healthily survive the coming winter.


Until next time…Andrew