At this time of year there is little or no forage for the bees, and in a normal winter the temperature is too low for the bees to fly. The queen has stopped laying and the number of bees in the hive has fallen to around 5000 worker bees and the queen. The bees huddle together in a ball, clustering around the combs regulating the temperature by moving closer together when the temperature fall and spreading out when the temperature rises. One of the main pests that invade bee colonies is Varroa, a mite that feeds on the bee’s “blood”. One of our ways of managing those infections is to treat the colonies with a solution of oxalic acid, which irritates the mites and they drop off the bees.
This photo below shows a Varroa board to count the drop of Varroa mites after treatment.
The only source of food at this time, when the weather is too cold to fly and there is little forage available, is the food stored in the hive. We check the amount of stores and knowing that in the coming weeks the queen will be starting to lay we decided to supplement the bees stores with fondant icing which we lay above the brood comb for the bees to feed on. Later in February we may start to give them a weak sugar syrup to give the growing colony a good start to the Spring.