Winter Bee Diary 23-24

Apr 30, 2024

With our Rough Close Works’ bees less active in colder months, winter is the quietest time for EPC-UK’s resident beekeeper Andy Bailey. Having readied equipment for the forthcoming season and ensured the colonies are well fed and treated for varroa mite, Andy tells us his other bee related news:

A new addition for the NSC

For some time now, the National Stone Centre (NSC) in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and home to the Institute of Quarrying, has been interested in having a colony or two of bees. Last year I visited the NSC and located an area I felt would be ideal. As I personally don’t have capacity to care for any additional hives at present, commercial beekeeper and friend of mine, David Wagstaff of More Bees Please at Rotherham, was happy to take on this special bee guardian role. In March, David re-located one colony from his Wakefield apiary and I moved two colonies from Rough Close Works to their new home at the NSC. 

Although giving away a valuable asset, it will free up some much-needed kit for the spring and summer.  Going into winter last year I had twelve colonies at Rough Close Works. Sadly, I lost the weaker two during the season. That reduced our viable colonies to ten and left me with two spare hives.

By giving David two colonies for the National Stone Centre, I will have two free hives to hand, which I can guarantee will be needed come the main season. Out of the eight colonies that will remain, one needs to be re-queened as the colony is particularly aggressive, although productive, so that will be on my ‘to do list’ for the spring.

Difficult decisions

At the end of February a colony of bees were found in buildings currently being demolished at Rough Close Works, some distance away from our apiary. When the colony was noticed, the EPC-UK team asked that I come to Rough Close Works as soon as possible to assess the situation. On inspection, I could see that the colony was large and well established due to the black colour of the comb. It had, though, become exposed to the elements and showed signs of having nosema, the most common and widespread of adult honeybee diseases

If I had cut out the colony’s old black comb in order to rehouse the bees, I would have had to take them to a friend’s apiary more than three miles away to ensure that they didn’t return. This would run the risk of spreading nosema within my friend’s bee colonies, potentially leading him to lose all his bees. So, sadly, I had to make the decision to destroy the bees which is never a pleasant prospect, but in this instance there was little else I could do. 

Spring ahead!

The bad news aside, there are exciting times to come. A new beekeeping season is in its infancy and our bees are spreading the love far and wide. I’ll catch up with you again at the end of the spring, but for now I will leave you with a fascinating bee fact: Did you know that bees actually listen with their feet? They are in fact deaf, but through vibrations passed on through the comb that’s picked up by the worker bees’ feet, they can communicate. Fascinating.

Until next time. Andy


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