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Canberra Late Winter Beekeeping

We’ve been watching the weather, as we always do. You’ve probably noticed that over the past 10 days or so there has been some remarkable warm, calm winter days. These are the days that we open our hives.

We understand that not everyone in Canberra opens his or her hives in winter. We don’t intend to debate wether or not we should or should not have done this, we are simply sharing what we found and how we used that information to help our hives. Canberra Urban Honey comes from a family spaning 4 generations, where we always put our bees first. We would never intentionally do anything that would be detrimental to our bees.

But, we admit that we make the occasional error positioning our hives. When we checked one of the hives it reinforced to us that positioning is incredibly important. One of our hives had been in a spot that wasn’t getting enough winter sun and we had been concerned about its position. When we opened the hive we found the colony was using a lot of its energy just to stay warm. That meant it was eating more of its stored nectar and pollen compared to other hives and bees numbers had declined markedly. When a hive is struggling and can’t maintain its internal temperature we see mould. A little bit of mould on the top bars or the lid is ok and to be expected, but mould in the brood box tells us this hive is struggling.

Winter mould in a cold, damp Canberra hive

Winter mould in a cold, damp Canberra hive

You can probably guess that we moved the hive to another, warm sunny and sheltered position. We also shared honey and pollen from another hive. This hive will need early attention again in spring to make sure it has recovered from its environmental stress.

Another one of our hives is struggling for no apparent reason. You can see in the photo below that the cluster of bees covering the frames is incredibly small. It’s interesting the way the bees have gathered to the front, where the sun was shining on the hive. This hive has plenty of stores, and had a new queen last season. There with a small amount of brood, so we would say it’s struggling, but not a failing hive. The adjacent hives were gathering new nectar and pollen so we know there is a good chance this hive will recover. We will watch this one closely and will probably transfer it to a smaller box – a nucleus hive in spring.

A struggling winter hive in Canberra

A struggling winter hive in Canberra

The good news is some urban hives are doing extremely well. Some of our hives are full of bees and a couple had freshly capped winter honey. One of our hives has already started to prepare for spring and had a small number of drones. It’s exciting to think that the majority of the bees are getting ready to pollinate our world.

A thriving hive in Canberra in late winter

A thriving hive in Canberra in late winter

We were thrilled to find that in some areas of Canberra there seems to be an abundant source of both nectar and pollen. The hives in areas with bee friendly planting are ahead of the others. It means we are confident those bee friendly areas in Canberra will have bees to pollinate fruit and vegetables in early spring. It also means we will start our spring management early. We are anticipating that we will be under-supering a couple of our strong hives in early spring and we will start our swarm management on the next warm winter day.

Other areas, with less bee friendly planting will have to wait for the bees to recover from the stress winter places on a hive. Those areas probably wont see many bees until mid to late spring.

Mitchell

-- Mitchell Pearce

2 Comments

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jude - September 28, 2014:

Love, love, love Urban honey. When you speak to Mitch you instantly see his passion for his work. It’s a brilliant concept which is good for the community, the bees, and the final product. A wonderful project which needs our full support.

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Business First Family - January 15, 2015:

Found your website on Facebook, great post. Will share again.

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