The Buzz From Cornwall: Multifunction Crown Boards and Feeds

Multifunction Crown Boards & Feeds - A blog by Tamsin Harris

A glimpse of much welcomed sunshine sees our bees out on cleansing flights, foraging for pollen and bringing back water. I’ve watched them today visiting the snowdrops and crocuses and packing the pollen tightly into their corbiculae (pollen baskets).

What can we beekeepers be doing now to ensure that our colonies pull through the most challenging part of winter? Thinking about their needs at this time of year is so important as there is plenty that they have to contend with over the coming few months but also plenty that we can be doing.

Checking the weight of the hive by hefting one side is something that should be done every 3 weeks or so.  What should you be feeling when you lift? Well, from my point of view, if I have to put a small amount of effort in to lift the hive – an action that needs a little umph – then I’m happy that there are sufficient stores on board to last a few weeks at least. 

What should be done if there isn’t any resistance when you lift? At this time of year feeding syrup is not advisable as the bees may have difficulty evaporating the moisture content. A surefire way of ensuring that your bees have access to feed is to put on a block of Fondabee fondant.  A 1kg pack can be cut open and placed over the feed hole in the crown board where the bees can have direct access from the brood box below. I score a cross on the face of the pack and peel back the edges to expose the fondant and then place it, open side down, over the feed hole. With the 2.5 kg packs I either cut them in half or into thirds and put them, again cut side down, over the feed hole. One pack then feeds two or three colonies or the surplus can be wrapped up and used when needed.

Bee Equipment’s multifunction crown board comes into its own when this type of feeding is needed. The 7cm depth allows plenty of room for the fondant to sit on the board without the need for an eke or super. No more pressing the fondant down hard to try and squash it flat so that the roof will stay on! Remember to fill the space with between the frames and underside of the crown board with insulation.

With the constant downpours of recent months, water is something the bees are not in short supply of, but should we get a period of drying easterly winds then remember to provide a shallow tray of water with moss and stones in it for the bees to find. 

Pollen is being used by the bees to feed the small amounts of larvae produced as the days noticeably lengthen. If they can’t collect it now then they will be using the bee bread stored in the autumn. This will rapidly deplete as the colony expands and if the weather is poor then pollen patties will provide the essential protein needed for growth.  Bee Equipment stock a variety of pollen substitutes, some for use throughout the winter as they are fondant based, others will supply essential pollen and stimulate the growth of the colony – exactly what we need to get those bees raring to go in the Spring! 

Just remember – it's always best that the bees are looking AT feed than looking FOR feed during the winter!

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