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Video: Autumn And Winter Worries Of The Beekeeper
Rest for bees - chores for the beekeeper
Apiary in winter
With the arrival of autumn, it would seem, an amateur beekeeper can relax and move away from everyday worries until warm days. During the cold period, bees are at rest, waiting for the spring awakening of nature. Indeed, the beekeeper's free time is getting more, but the length of daylight hours is getting shorter and shorter, but urgent matters still remain. During this relatively quiet period, it is necessary to repair the existing inventory, purchase a new one, recycle stocks of used frames, prepare foundation, refresh and replenish your knowledge …
An experienced beekeeper understands well that preparation for the new season does not begin in the spring, as it seems to a beginner, but practically from the moment when you decided to withdraw some of the honey harvested by bees for future use, with an eye to unfavorable honey harvest years. It turns out that already in the summer, in the most active period of the development of the bee colony, the beekeeper must foresee how and how he can help her in case of unfavorable developments in the cold season.
In short, the work on keeping bees does not stop, it just smoothly turns into another channel. The main thing is to adhere to the accepted rule: the less a person by his actions disrupts the natural course of life of these social insects, the better. The question immediately arises: how to combine our necessary activity with this common truth? But for this, it is necessary not only to study all the stages of development of a bee colony, but also to be able to abstractly represent their behavior in a given situation in order to avoid losses.
With the onset of stable cold weather, the bee colony on the nesting frames, where there is a lot of free space, forms a dense accumulation of worker bees. It is this cluster in the form of an irregular ball that is called the bee club. Thanks to such an accumulation of insects, the bee colony safely tolerates the winter cold, maintaining its activity until warm spring days, when nectar and pollen appear on the blossoming buds of plants. But this period is still very far away.
The second factor contributing to a successful wintering is the increased content of carbon dioxide in the area where the bee colony is located. The concentration of CO 2 at this time can reach 3-4%, and oxygen - about 18%. This helps to slow down the biological processes in the body of bees, and due to this, the consumption of carbohydrate feed decreases, i.e. honey. At the same time, autumn bees survive until spring and with the onset of warmth they are actively working, providing the young spring generation with everything necessary for its rapid development and preparation for the period when there will be a lot of flowering plants and the time for the main flow comes. But you will have to go to this period of development gradually, without disrupting the natural course of the family's life, but only creating favorable conditions for its existence, bringing them as close as possible to natural ones.
When keeping bees in an open space, it is necessary to exclude the accidental entry of domestic animals into this territory, which can disturb the rest period of the bees. Noisy companies launching firecrackers on holidays should not be allowed to the hives, and children who want to organize winter games and spring fun there should not only be banned, but also clearly explain the reason for the ban. It is advisable to arouse their curiosity about the life of insects in the hives. For this, it may be enough to organize listening to families with them through an auditory tube inserted through the notch inside the hive. And in the spring, when you will carry out incentive feeding or compensate for the lack of food, you can invite children to take part in this procedure, allowing them to watch how the bees will actively consume the heated food.
During the period of heavy autumn rains and strong gusts of wind, it is necessary to re-check the stability of the hive roofs and their impermeability to rain and snow.
Hives in winter
In winter, many beekeepers try to create additional conditions for a comfortable wintering by covering the hives with snow from all sides. This is the correct technique, since in strong winds and severe frosts, the heat does not quickly erode. But it is worth remembering that such a technique, if performed carelessly, can also harm the bees. This will happen if the entrance is covered with snow. But through it fresh air enters the hive and ventilation takes place, ensuring the outflow of water vapor accumulating in the nest. As a result, the humidity rises, which is worse for the bee in winter than the cold. When the snow is loose, it’s not a problem, but it’s worth a temporary thaw, and then a sharp cold snap, and an ice plug forms in the hive. Here, the consequences for the bee colony can be very unfavorable.
In order to avoid such a situation, many beekeepers cover the entrances with spruce branches, and someone makes special vertical inserts or comes up with something else. The main thing is to ensure constant air penetration into the hive through the lower entrance. I can be told that when the hive is open, the weathering and cooling of the hive occurs, but this is not so. The increased carbon dioxide content of 3-4% contributes to the formation of a kind of gaseous cushion under the bee club, which prevents excessive heat loss and air cooling. And the constant movement of bees from the periphery to the center and back, as well as the consumption of honey, which in a warm state is always above the “cap” of the club, ensures that the above-zero temperature is approximately equal to 10 … 17 ° C. Since February,when in some colonies bees are already starting to grow brood, the temperature is constantly maintained there at 34 … 35 ° С, although outside can be frost down to -30 ° С.
Knowing these features in the development of bees, care must be taken not to disrupt the natural course of their life in winter. If this happens, then in the spring you can observe a large amount of dead weather, souring of honey, deterioration of bee bread, the formation of mold on the walls of the hive. There is also such a disease as nasematosis, when traces of bee excrement are noted on the walls of the hive and frames. This is a consequence of the wrong keeping of bees. This means that these conditions were such that the bees barely survived the winter and barely survived. And the beekeeper sometimes says: he wanted the best …
Here are some examples from practice: in the literature on beekeeping, a case was described when a bee colony underwent wintering in a cracked metal pipe of large diameter. It was the crack that played the role of the taphole, and the pipe was a shelter from the rain. But no one bothered the family there, did not interfere with wintering. I had a case when small families on 4-5 frames successfully overwintered in portable plywood boxes. The main thing here is a sufficient amount of high-quality food, its correct location in the hive, since in the cold season the family consumes only the food that is located above the club, and the heat released by the bees constantly warms this honey. The same one that is located on the extreme frames on the right and left of the nest is inaccessible to bees in winter conditions - they cannot move to these reserves.
Therefore, the formation of a nest in autumn is the first and most important step in preparing bees for winter. If you made a mistake and incorrectly distributed the feed stocks in the hive, and in early February discovered this, when the bees had not yet crumbled and the family had not died, it is urgent to organize feeding for them. You can place a feeder with warm sugar syrup above the club, which has already risen to the top bar of the frames. In the absence of a special feeder, you can take a wide insulated glass jar with a standard hole, pour thick sugar syrup into it, and then, folding the usual medical gauze in several layers, tie it tightly around the jar. Turning the jar upside down, place it on the hangers of the nesting frames in the center of the club, carefully insulating the contents of the jar and the ceiling of the hive. As this food is consumed, it needs to be changed, ensuring adequate insulation of the bee nest. This method of rescuing bees is effective with the approach of spring, but it is better not to bring it up to this, but to use small portions of sugar syrup with dietary supplements to activate the spring growth of bees. Only a strong family can provide itself with food for a successful future wintering and give the beekeeper a fair amount of marketable honey.
Lev Pylkin, beekeeper