Hello beekeepers, welcome to our December newsletter!
If you’re looking for something a little different, we have bee-themed jewellery which will be sure to add a bit of sparkle to any outfit.
For the kids - we have bee hotels, which provide shelter to solitary bees in your garden and encourage an interest in learning more about our buzzy friends, and also cuddly bee teddies!
We also have beehive starter packs that contain everything a beginner will need to get started on their beekeeping journey. Not sure what to get the beekeeper in your life this year? Why not gift them with a voucher from Donegal Bees, which are currently on sale - see more below!
- Check on your bees every couple of weeks to make sure all is well.
- If oxalic acid is chosen for varroa treatment, apply when the temperature is below 3°C.
- Use your records to review the past year.
- Identify what worked and why.
- Determine what didn’t work and why not.
- Plan your activities for the coming year - colony increase, queen rearing, migratory beekeeping.
- Make or buy any additional equipment you’ll need.
Courtesy of the Haynes Bee Manual
As we all know, December is the real beginning of Winter. The cold weather keeps our bees clustered in the upper center of the hive. The reason the colony moves from the bottom of the hive to the top is “heat rises”. Colony’s utilize their cluster by rubbing against each other. Within the colony the individual honey bees circulate from the outside to the inside of the cluster. The larger the colony, the better heating ability the colony will have. So, let’s not forget that we want to have a large colony in mid-Autumn to be able to survive the cold Winter.
The next critical phase of the colony is eating. Eating is very important as the bees will rarely leave the hive. During this time of the year it is advised to feed your bees a fondant like Hive Alive or Apipasta.
You really do not want to disturb your colony when it is below 12 degrees as it could and probably will chill your colony resulting in bee loss. The best way to see if your colony needs to be fed is to go to the rear of the hive and gently pick-up the rear of the bottom board. You only need to lift the hive .50 inches, just enough to feel the weight of the hive. If it is really light, then feeding needs to be done immediately. If it is still heavy, then you can wait another 30 days to repeat this procedure.
It is important to realize that the colony is now slowing down and will not consume the sugar water as we would see in August. There is still time to add a 8 frame or 10 frame hive wrap to help retain the heat within the hive. But it is too late when your bees have frozen! January is typically when it is too late to add a hive wrap as the damage to the colony will have been done. Hive wraps retain heat and greatly reduce drafts within the hive.
If you do these minor tips in December, you are setting up your bee colony to be successful and robust in the Spring!
Courtesy of Mountain Sweet Honey
With all the required fondant now in the brood chamber, all should be well for winter. Fit a mouse guard to the entrance if not done already. Strap and or weigh down the roof against winter wind. Monitor the now small entrance regularly for the build up of dead bees. Bees are dying all the time and just a few can block the entrance leaving the others unable to get out. Keep a regular check for rain getting in. Feeding should not be required yet but keep an emergency block of fondant with you just in case (most of the colonies that die out are due to starvation). Most important remember bees are livestock and we have a duty to look after them as best we can.
TIP: Joining a local beekeeping association or club is the best way to learn about the particulars of beekeeping for your region. It’s one of the first things we suggest to anyone looking to become a beekeeper.
Federation of Irish Beekeepers Association - https://irishbeekeeping.ie/
Irish Beekeepers Association CLG - https://www.irishbeekeepersassociation.com/
Native Irish Honey Bee Society - https://nihbs.org/
Our Basic Kit includes a beesuit, gloves, smoker, hive tool and a bee brush. €115
Lastly, thank you for keeping bees! Let us know if you have any questions regarding your hive, we’re always happy to help. We hope you have a very Merry Christmas and Prosperous 2023!