Episode 87: Our Beekeeping Season 2019

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By Stewart Spinks. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Hi, I’m Stewart Spinks and welcome to Episode 86 of my podcast, Beekeeping Short and Sweet. This week I’m taking a look back at how this season’s beekeeping has been for me personally and sharing my plans for next year as we head into the long Winter haul.

Firstly, this week, I wanted to send my best wishes to all of the beekeepers around the globe currently dealing with the most unexpected and shocking losses of honeybee colonies through flood and wildfires. It’s easy to get caught up with our own struggles in beekeeping and forget that there is usually someone out there having a more difficult time. This month it’s really hit home here in the UK as quite a number of beekeeper have been hit with flooding in their apiaries and have seen colonies swept away in flash floods. Those lucky enough to escape seeing colonies destroyed are looking at apiary sites completely cut off and unable to get to hives. Luckily, it is a quieter time for us and the bees can, for the most part, be left to their own devices, for now, hopefully, the water will drain away quickly and the apiaries will dry out.

Worse still are those beekeepers currently facing wildfires around the world, I don’t know of any specific beekeepers that have suffered losses but imagine having an apiary site in the path of one of those terrible fires. It can only end in the utter destruction of colonies and hives and it must be heartbreaking. If you’re one of those beekeepers out there who has suffered due to these sudden catastrophic losses, our thoughts are with you and if you’d like to chat about your experiences on my podcast please do get in touch.

Here in Norwich, things are very much quieter, we have had long periods of rain but also some sunny intervals, I think there is more rain on the way but I’m fortunate to have my apiary sites in fairly risk-free locations. It’s the time in the beekeeping calendar where not much is happening to be honest. The bees are settled in their hives, still getting out and foraging the very late Ivy and fetching water, perhaps going out on cleansing flights, but other than that the frantic rush of the Spring and Summer are long gone.

For the most part, drones will have been kicked out of the colonies, newcomers to beekeeping won’t mind being reminded I’m sure that the drones are the male honeybees. They really only serve one major purpose and that’s mating with the virgin queens, however, they are needed within a colony generally, it seems they keep the atmosphere mellow and without them a colony can get quite fractious. I’m not sure if there are any scientific studies out there showing other important roles that drones play but their main task is an obvious one.

Thinking about why they would be kicked out through the Winter, I think most beekeepers here in the UK understand that whilst honeybees don’t hibernate in the Winter, like the bumblebees and wasps, they do reduce their activity dramatically, and with the obvious absence of food availability it makes sense for honeybee colonies not to waste their time and resources in trying to produce virgin queens and therefore need drones for them to mate with.

Add to this the demand on food stores and you can see what many colonies kick out their drones in the late Autumn and wait until Spring to produce more.

I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve seen drones in colonies through the Winter months so I think that while the majority of drones get the cold shoulder, there are some that manage to stick around. Of course, I’m not including any colony that has become a Winter, drone laying queen Colony.

So most of the colonies now will be settled down, food stores set aside and we don’t have much to worry about, at least not for a few weeks.

That got me thinking about how quickly the seasons seem to come round and once again I’m thinking about what went well this year and where I managed to mess things up. What can I do to improve on

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