The dark evenings are here and it would be nice to think that all those jobs that needed to be done in the apiary have been completed. Wishful thinking on my part!
With the blackberries finished and foliage starting to die back, the hedges around the apiaries can be trimmed back and the grass around the hives given a final strim.
I've noted which stands need to be replaced and straightened up and I've changed a few floors that looked past their best. All the hives have good, sound boxes and sturdy rooves and the majority have been branded with my initials.
The mouse guards are all in place but as a few of my bigger colonies still have drones lurking around I shall have to check the entrances to ensure that they don't become blocked by dead drones. This is something to check each time the colonies are visited, whether that's for oxalic acid treatment, hefting the weight or adding fondant. A blocked entrance can cause major problems if not dealt with in time.
The mild, wet and windy winters experienced in Cornwall can cause a few issues with damp and mouldy hives. The end frames invariably are very mouldy and unsavoury in the Spring. Insulating from the cold is not essential in this part of the country, but ensuring that everything possible is done to alleviate the damp is certainly beneficial to the bees health.
The final preparations for winterising colonies is very easy with straight forward winter wraps. The cold draughts and damp can be kept at bay as the impenetrable material securely contains the hive. The tough, smooth surface doesn't allow woodpeckers to gain purchase and peck away at the hive to get to the brood. These pesky critters can cause an incredible amount of damage to timber hives, I've even had a polystyrene nuc attacked by a woodpecker.
The ideal way to over winter bees is to keep the hive dry and secure from the elements. With this in mind the winter wrap shouldn't be tight against the timber as air movement will stop the retention of damp. The DPC wrap fits around the hive and is secured with staples or drawing pins and the roof is placed over the top edge to keep the worst of the weather out.
With a mouse guard across the entrance, pinned in place before the nights get cold and the mice gain entry and start to nest, a winter wrap around the timberwork, an insulation pad beneath the roof and a large rock or block weighting down the roof, all that is needed is vigilance from the beekeeper to ensure that the bees stay well fed.