Today I am going to have a catch up. I started by reading some of my favourite blogs. Rusty’s wisdom is always worth considering and this one about how much honey to leave for the bees is up to her usual standard.
During my first winter as a beekeeper with just one hive, my mentor suggested I needed to use a brood and a half (or a deep and a super in rusty’s parlance). He said I should put the super underneath but then when spring came put it above the brood box. What a mess i got myself in there. Having started beekeeping late in life and with an already dodgy back, trying to rearrange the boxes turned into a nightmare. The bees had cemented the frames in the upper box to those in the lower box (obviously there had been no QE between). I was trying to lift the top brood box clear of the super below and wondered why I couldn’t. My struggle continued for ages and even in the weak spring sunshine I was perspiring and getting agitated. No doubt the bees were, too. Suddenly there was a crash. Some of the lower frames had detached but there were still some attached and nowhere I could place the heavy brood box with its uneven bottom to try and deal with the fallen frames which were in crisis. Ever since then my bees have overwintered in a single brood box and I leave no super of honey. My bees are close to my house and they have a good supply of ivy as they go into winter, a sheltered area and south facing aspect. I have a range of winter flowering shrubs and plants – some late michaelmas daisy, mahonia and more as well as snowdrops. For Christmas they get some fondant and their proximity means I can monitor them and reach them even if the weather is bad. I find that splitting a bag of fondant between some recycled takeaway containers means I have a convenient container and as I use ‘quilts’ – sort of clear crown boards – I can quickly take in the state of the colony when I put in or exchange the fondant. I used this technique for the last few years and my only casualty was a colony that survived until mid March a year or so ago and failed because I relaxed my vigil thinking winter was over. How I blamed myself for that! It was that winter that seemed to just keep going – must have been 2012-2013
Nevertheless, Rusty’s advice will cause me to think about my strategy. i think I will keep to my usual modus operandii, if only in fear of my physical limitations and due to the memory of that first winter. But take a look at Rusty’s wisdom for yourself. http://www.honeybeesuite.com/how-much-honey-should-i-leave-in-my-hive/