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John the BeeMan's Blog - Feb 2014
Sterilisation, hive types, winter aspects & February jobs

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The January magazine has 2 articles that interested me:

Page 17 – Sterilization of Equipment: It’s worth noting the recommendation to keep renewing brood frames to combat diseases, such as foul brood and Nosema, on a regular basis and the use of ‘seconds’ frames.   Thornes often have these, especially during their sales which are cheap and perfectly usable.

Page 19 – Comparing Hive Types: NLB has always recommended the use of the National beehives with their British Standard (BS) frames.   The article promotes the WBC hive as an attractive alternative, which also uses BS frames.   Two of my colonies are in WBCs, white painted and forming a feature near the entrance to an office building.   One benefit not mentioned in the article, regards over wintering, I find that these colonies keep very dry internally, throughout the winter with no condensation on the underside of the roof, unlike the National.

The following pictures show my WBC hives

WBC hive
WBC hive

Roof Insulation

A countryside beekeeping friend of mine tells me that in Wiltshire, beekeepers are insulating their hives with an empty super filled with hay on top of the crown board.   (See March blog about treated hay).   This also soaks up moisture when it occurs.   In a similar way, the ‘Warre’ hive uses sawdust above a tightly stretched canvas/hessian covered frame.   I’ve tried 1” thick polystyrene under the roof, only to find that the bees chew it away!

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Winter Feeding

I fed mine on 5th January.

Traditionally, we use solid sugar in the form of homemade ‘candy’ or bought ‘icing fondant’ as a winter feed placed either over the feed hole in the crown board or under the crown board, positioned directly over the cluster.   I’ve used both types and methods.   Under is preferable as the bees will be closer to it.

Candy on WBC hive positioned over brood nest
Nektapol on National hive over brood nest
Candy on WBC hive positioned over brood nest
'Nektapol' on National hive over brood nest

I keep bees on a tight budget and usually make candy.   The recipe is:

  • 1kg of white granulated sugar mixed into ½ pint of water.
  • Pour the sugar slowly into the boiling water, stirring all the time until completely dissolved.
  • Do not allow it to burn on the bottom of the pan as caramel is poisonous to bees.
  • Using a cooking thermometer, boil until 234 degrees F (‘Soft Ball’).
  • Take off heat and cool the pan in a sink of cold water, stirring all the time until white streaks appear.
  • Pour into containers to a depth of 3/4 “.
  • When cool remove from container and seal in plastic bag.

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Crown boards

I have adapted my crown boards so that I have the standard bee space (3/8”) on one side for normal use and double (3/4”) on the other.   The latter allows space for the winter feed or the ‘apiguard’ or ‘MAQS’ varroa treatments, placed on the top bars of the brood box.


Moving Hives

Now is the time to change your hive position if needed.   A seven day cold spell, when the bees are dormant, is your best opportunity, as the bees will have forgotten their orientation during that time.   My WBC hives have to be taken away from proposed building work close by and I am awaiting a cold week.   So far the weather has been unseasonally warm delaying the move!


Jobs for February

  • Check the winter feed and replenish if necessary.   As the queen will probably start laying now, pollen is very important and a substitute such as ‘Netkapol’ can be used as a safeguard.
  • Make candles, come to my demonstration on Saturday 8th February.   (See newsletter)
  • Check, repair and clean equipment.
  • Keep an eye on the colonies and, if the temperature reaches 16 degrees C, they can be briefly inspected.

I will report on these at the beginning of March.

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