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Mantel Farm Beekeeping - January 2017

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January 2017 Beekeeping Notes...
Beginner Beekeeper or experienced Beekeeper?

Asian HornetI read a thought provoking comment on the Honeybee Suite website recently:  It is a US website but nonetheless has some useful comments.  She pointed out that one of the main differences between beginner Beekeepers and the experienced Beekeeper was that while beginners respond to an event (assuming they are looking and can recognise what they are seeing), the experienced Beekeepers anticipate and prevent problems from getting out of hand (most of the time!)  The best way of making this transition is by learning the biology of our bees, their behaviour and their life cycles. But not just about the bees; we also need to understand the life cycle of the Varroa, and other diseases which affect them.. and the weather.. and the flowering seasons of good bee plants and....and....

January is a good time to reflect on what has been, and decide whether you want to remain an indifferent beginner all your life, or whether you want to become a good beekeeper who can work with and understand your bees and anticipate their needs.  The first step is to read lots of good books; not all those run of the mill beekeeping books often written by inexperienced Beekeepers that should never have reached print.  I could name some truly awful books out there.  Go for something like Haynes Bee Manual by Claire and Adrian Waring.  Ted Hooper's book of course, Celia Davis' two books on bee biology: (The Honey Bee Around and About and the Honey Bee Inside Out) are worth having and Jurgen Tautz's Buzz about Bees, and Keeping Healthy Honey Bees by David Aston and Sally Bucknall. 

What to do this month...
  Beekeeping Courses

As for the bees this month, heft them (lift each side) to judge the weight of stores. It is an inaccurate and difficult thing to judge though.  If you are unsure, try lifting a floor, a brood with empty frames and a crown board from your equipment store as a comparison.  I normally take off the roof and eke and can then sometimes get my arms round to lift the lot (unless it is a brood and a half). If in any doubt that they have enough, it will not hurt them to crack open the lid on a windless day to see if there are frames with sealed stores, without disturbing the cluster.  If they have cleaned out all around them, you could move a full frame right next to the cluster.  Failing that put some fondant in a plastic pot inverted over the crown hole above the cluster.  However this means you seriously misjudged the colony or the honey they had, or the amount of stores you gave them.  Once started you need to check the fondant every 10-14 days to replenish or reconstitute if it has gone hard.  Feeding fondant does mean they have to make more risky trips outside to get more water to dissolve it than they would with honey or syrup, and also it would render ineffective the solid Celotex insulation I have sitting snugly over the crown board, just when they would benefit most from the insulation.  The queen will be starting to lay more seriously now and Jan and Feb are traditionally the colder months so insulation is of greater benefit.  Up to the end of December it had been warm enough for the bees to move around the hive to access food and being active they may be using more stores and I doubt whether there has been a brood break.  I even saw pollen going in to one colony in mid December. It may have been from my Viburnham Bodnantense which has just opened, and the V. Tinus has fat buds soon to open.  The snowdrop buds are above the ground too and crocus leaves so there will soon be some fresh pollen for them.

Continue to monitor regularly for dead bees blocking the entrance or on the floor, by peering through the entrance.  Only one of my colonies has any dead outside and had a pile on the floor.  All the others have none on the ground, so I suggest if you see many outside then you have a problem.  I scraped the floor clear but they did not like it and it would have been better for them if I had instead quickly changed the floor for a clean one if there had been anyone around to help me left the hive - which there wasn't! Because it has been mild the small number or bees normally dying all the time in the hive in winter could have been taken well away from the hive on the regular flying days.  A cold spell in January or February will prevent this housekeeping and when it becomes warmer again there will be a general sweeping out of the front door and a small pile of dead bees may be seen at the front, this would not necessarily indicate any abnormality. When you get a pile in mild wither it the time to worry!

Latest research...


Young bees fed fresh pollen or fresh pollen substitute had normal beneficial bacteria in their gut and normal Hypopharyngeal (brood food) gland development.  Bees fed diets of old pollen suffered impaired development, increased mortality and developed a significant microbial imbalance in their gut with more Nosema present.

Bumble bees' ability to buzz pollinate is innate not learned. 

One advantage is that they can make use of any new flower coming in to their area but it could also mean they could invade other areas and out compete native pollinators (as is known they do well in new areas such as when introduced to NZ).

I hope you all had a good Christmas and have been able to keep a few jars of honey for yourselves!





2016 Prices

It seems that the majority of our suppliers are quoting 'Brexit' as a need to increase prices, so unfortunately we will have to review our 2017 prices as new stock arrives,

so... if you are about to buy beekeeping equipment or hive parts, then now may be a good time! - whilst our existing stock is available at the 2016 prices:


Beekeeping Equipment



Winter Work

Winter evenings are the perfect time to start assembling your new frames and hive parts ready for the new season...






Ideal small bags of fondant for use as a winter feed if needed...




Bee Fondant

2.00 per bag





Mantel Farm Ltd, Henley Down, Catsfield, Battle, East Sussex, United Kingdom, TN33 9BN | 01424 830357 | VAT Registration No. 934 6204 31 |