I’m convinced my bees have enough honey to last them a winter, especially such a kind one as this (south/south-west England) but a new and curious word was appearing in my mind, ‘heft’. Once they were caught out by one of the rare cold snaps and the paving slab by the hive had a smattering of small frozen corpses but one of the colonies has been flying almost everyday.
However it’s more than half way through the winter and it must be high time to check that the hive weight indicates that honey stores are sufficient. This, for a novice, is a difficult thing to judge and might lead one to invest in a set of spring balance scales. All I know is that last year when my small nuc didn’t survive the hive was as light as a feather. I also know that when I carried these full hives into the garden they needed two strong arms at each end.
There are calculations that can be made to assess the desired weight so that decisions about feeding can be made but first, I want to keep it simple and second, I will only feed in an emergency. Simple means no scales and I want to learn in my body the different weights and what they mean (and I’ve always got the equipment with me)!
Last time I went to lift one of the hives – just sliding my fingers underneath and lifting a mere centimetre or two of the stand at one side, I was stung before you could say Ouch! This time although there was very little flying activity due to a gusty north wind, I was taking no chances and kitted up. (My gardening gloves which have a nice tight fit and good finger control but aren’t really bee-proof and my woolly cardie’s hood over my head – what a pro).
My double brood box stack – I couldn’t lift it, I really tried. Great news. The other colony from which there has been much less activity in the last couple of months (a brood box and super) was nicely heavy I’m pleased to report. I will keep an eye on it if the weather turns especially cold or wet for any length of time but I’m sure the cupboards are full for now.
Just to satisfy myself further I tried a new trick I learnt from the Hampshire Natural Beekeepers meeting I went to in January. I already had a stethoscope in my bee tool kit but my previous attempt to hear anything from inside the hive had failed miserably and I hadn’t known why. I had placed the amplifying end against the wall and heard – nothing. The key is to remove the amplifier and poke the naked tube into the entrance. I cautiously fed the tube under the gateway and lo, a warm comfortable buzz. What a great trick to allay winter worries!