by Derek Driver, SE Herts
The bees may have settled down for the winter but there are lots of jobs you can do.
All boxes not occupied by bees can now be emptied of frames and all the propolis scraped off. Some people flame gun the insides plus the top and bottom edges, and even give the outsides a coat of sealant.
Frames can be sorted into those which need new foundation and those which are o.k. (Also check for wax moth grubs.) The old comb can be cut out and stored for melting down in the spring. If you haven’t got a Solar wax extractor then now’s the time to make one. They are easy to make and a wonderful piece of equipment. The clean rendered wax can be exchanged for foundation, and then you can. replace the foundation in the empty frames in early spring, well before you need it.
Most hives will have new queens this summer but which hives contain your best bees? Check your records and breed from these.
In early January start to regularly check the weight of stores and feed if required.
It’s not worth loosing a colony for the sake of a few pounds of sugar.
This year one of our new members arrived at his apiary to set up his first empty hive, only to find not 20 yards away a prime swarm! So spend time this winter making a swarm box, and make it at least as big as a brood box. There’s no point in making one that can only accommodate casts! Use it to carry your gear to your apiary, that way if you find a swarm you will have your box with you.
If your new, seek information and advice from old hands, they will have years of experience. Always have a list of members phone numbers because you never know when you may need assistance, on site! Above all think of how you can improve your beekeeping such as producing some comb honey or making a nuc box, or buying your jars before you extract, etc. There is lots to do so put on your thinking caps.