Bees: What do we do in winter?

JL16_BeesBees through the Seasons; Supporting Kiwi Bees

Like most farming, winter is a time for the jobs that you don’t have time for in the season. There’s not much flowering at the moment but our bees are bringing home a little bit of white pollen. As long as the bees have honey stores and a recent queen, they should survive until the burst of Spring. So make sure your hives are in a dry place with full or nearly full sun and some protection from the wind. In your spare time, make and repair gear for the new season, or prepare for expanding your hives in the spring.

Winter is a good time to socialise with other beekeepers and if you are not already a member of the local bee club, now is a good time to join. Ōtaki has its own “Buzz Club” and they hold monthly meetings on a Wednesday evening.

  • Contact details are Sarah Bayliss 063640555.

Many clubs run training courses for new bee keepers and such things as disease recognition. Even if you don’t do the courses, rubbing shoulders with other beekeepers often provides insight and new ideas and also ways of getting hold of hive equipment and some shared gear such as honey extractors. Most commercial beekeepers take a holiday in winter and some will attend the national apiculture conference.

It’s is a good idea to think about ordering your queens or queen cells for spring as demand is always high and production can be limited by the spring weather. Wasps are still hanging around although as it gets colder, they will become less frequent. Mice can try to get into the hives and will burrow underneath to take advantage of the heat generated by the bees. Minimise the entrance of the hives to reduce risk of invasion.

In these cold times, bee numbers reduce and the bees cluster in the centre of the hive to keep warm. The queen slows or stops laying for periods and will resume to fulllaying when the temperatures rise in spring and there is new nectar around.

Varroa strips should be coming out if the hives have had the full 8 week treatment. Do not leave the strips in the hives beyond the specified period as this will assist in resistance development and eventually reduce effectiveness of the current treatments.