The Secrets of Bees by Michael Weiler

The Secrets of Bees by Michael Weiler

Author:Michael Weiler [Michael Weiler]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781782505839
Publisher: Floris Books
Published: 2019-04-14T16:00:00+00:00

Figure 42. Comb with winter bees below capped honey stores

In order to follow the further development of the swarmed colony, the next inspection may take place around Michaelmas. By then the leaves are beginning to change colour and the October sun creates a multitude of warm, earthy tones in the surroundings. The days still quite mild, but the nights are noticeably colder. The dew stays on the plants late into the morning; spider webs shimmer in the morning sunshine, which slowly disperses the light ground mist lying in the hollows. Even in the warm hours around noon, there is only weak foraging traffic. Pollen gatherers are in evidence on Michaelmas daisies and goldenrod; otherwise there is merely a brief orientation flight of young bees.

In the colony, the outer store combs are almost abandoned. A thick coat of bees is now gathered on and under the combs where before we saw the brood nest. The bee cluster is suspended between the seams of comb and hangs down almost to the hive floor. A carefully removed comb reveals closely packed bees interleaved in two layers like roof tiles, their abdomens pointing downwards and outwards, their heads and thoraxes pointing inwards and upwards. This coat of bees moves only slightly and the colony flares up a bit on being disturbed. A few bees point their abdomens in the air and the outstretched stings can be clearly seen with tiny droplets as clear as water on the ends of them. This is a small amount of bee venom.

There is no more brood, or at most small patches of capped brood cells on one or two combs at the centre of the cluster of bees. The remaining young bees will soon hatch from these. This shows that the queen laid the last cells around the equinox.

A colony’s winter cluster forms over the vacated area of cells of the previous brood by hanging in the gaps between the combs close to the hive entrance. The uppermost bees of the cluster occupy the lower margin of the ring of honey of the comb they are on. A colony in this condition is ready for winter.

Unless there are special circumstances, the beekeeper does not need to open the hives again before the following Easter. The entrances are restricted or fitted with protective grilles (mouse guards) to stop mice getting in. A sampling board is inserted into the floor of the hive under the bee cluster. This is made up of a water-resistant sheet beneath a fine mesh, which is designed to be removed without opening the hive. By examining what falls from the over-wintering cluster onto this board the status and condition of the colony can be determined without having to disturb the hive.


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