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Tales from a Top Bar 5 – Year’s end

This will be my last post for this year, as the bees seem to have settled themselves for winter, and there won’t be much going on for a while.

As October started, the bees ceased taking the syrup, so I have now removed the remainder as I don’t want it going mouldy.  As the bees ceased comb-building rather earlier than I thought they would, there is a bit of a cavity at either end of their main block of honeycombs.  However, rather than try to close this up, I have left the follower boards where they are as they are well propolised in place and it seems a pity to break that seal.

The bees have concentrated themselves in the centre of the hive, where they first started building, and seem content to consume their stores.  On warmer days they spread out amongst the combs, but when it’s cold they gather in the middle, and when we had frost they disappeared completely into the darker recesses of their honeycombs (I was a bit worried for a while!)

When the first frost was forecast, I set to with my insulation plan.  October being as wet as it was, dry leaves were in short supply, so I got hold of some dry straw and used that instead.  I read somewhere that bees have an affinity for straw – it made sense when I thought about skeps.  I have packed the apex of the hive roof with the jute sacks filled with as much straw as possible while enabling the roof to be put back properly – not all that much as it turned out as the roof pitch is quite shallow, but I hope sufficient to keep them reasonably cosy.  I checked the sacks briefly after some particularly heavy rain, and they are still dry, so obviously the roof is doing its job.

It’s almost certainly my imagination but I have the feeling that the bees are comfortable and content now – there is a sense of gentle harmony when I peer in at them through the window.  On warm days one or two will venture out, and when I removed the roof to install the insulation one came out to see what was going on, but otherwise they are staying put.

The combs are still bulging with honey (well, syrup probably!) and while that is the case, I won’t provide any further food.  If and when the combs look depleted it will be easy to open the feeding end and put a block of fondant over the frame where I had the syrup jars, although that isn’t an optimum location – ideally the fondant should sit on the top bars, and next year I will make sure to put in a bar or two designed to  allow egress into a feeder. 

I hope they survive the winter now – I’ll let you know next spring!  In the meantime, gentle winter greetings from the sleepy bees in the Top Bar.