Winter is a time when the bees are hopefully dormant and all inspections are over. This is the time to spend time doing those jobs which will set you up well for next season. Here are five that everyone should be doing.
Cleaning & Repairing Super Boxes
Many super boxes will be off and in store. Now is a great time to ensure they are in good shape. Begin by removing any frames and then thoroughly scrape down the inside of the boxes. If you are using metal or plastic runners or castellated spacers remove these before continuing to the next stage.
If you want to use propolis you will often find a good supply where the bees have glued the super frames down. You can scrape this off and set aside for future use.
A blow torch is the friend of the beekeeper. If you do not already own one now is the time to buy yourself a present. A simple DIY blowtorch will do the job brilliantly. Once you have scraped the inside of the boxes then flame them with the blowtorch. There is no need to completely blacken the boxes merely to scorch them. Pay particular attention to the joints. This is a great way of dealing with any disease which may have built up during the season.
Next scorch any metal runners and castellated spacers and replace any plastic runners. Now is an excellent time to change plastic for metal as it is so much easier to sterilize metal with a blowtorch.
Once all the sterilization is complete check the boxes for any damage, especially holes caused by woodpeckers which will need filling with wood filler. It’s also a really good idea to check that when the super is put on top of another there are no gaps due to warping or other damage. These gaps will allow wasps and other predators to enter the hive and so filling these now will pay dividends later.
At the end of every season you will have frames with old or damaged wax in them. Now is the time to clean or replace them.
Cut out the wax and save for processing (this is valuable stuff). Keep really dirty wax and clean wax separately as you can use them for different purposes. You can also scrape off any propolis and keep that on one side.
Any frames that are damaged or too dirty can be set aside and used as fire lighters. Frames are relatively cheap and it’s only worth refurbishing them if they are in good condition.
To properly clean the frames either boil them in water containing a little washing soda or better still you can use and old super box and wallpaper stripper to steam sterilize them.
Frames can then have new foundation added ready for the new season.
Any frames that have good drawn foundation should be frozen to kill off any wax moth before they are stored.
Cleaning Queen Excluders
Queen excluders should by now have been removed to allow the bees access to the winter stores in any supers left on.
Queen excluders can be scraped clean and then scorched with a blow torch to sterilize them ready for the new season.
Queen excluders can often be a good source of propolis when you scrape them and so if you use propolis set it aside at this stage.
Check & Repair Stands
Hive stands take a lot of abuse. Hives are heavy and the stands are often placed on grass where the feet get wet and rot can set in. It is also possible for stands to twist under the weight of the hive or bolts and screws to become loose.
If you find any problems now is a really good time of year to move the hive to a temporary stand whilst you take the existing one back home for repair or replacement.
Failure to check the stands and make sure they are in good shape now can result in the hive falling over when it gets heavy with honey next year resulting in problems for the bees and possibly loss of part or all of the honey crop.
Continue Your Learning
None of us ever know everything about bees. The winter is a great time to settle down and update our knowledge.
Read the back copies of beekeeping magazines that you have been “going to get around to” all summer but have just not had the time.
If you are a member of your local beekeeping association then make sure you get along to winter lectures and events. It can be cold and wet out there and it is very easy to keep saying you will go next time but you will miss some really great talks and information.
If you are not a member then now is the time to join. You can find details of your local association at http://www.bbka.org.uk/pages/category/bee-come-a-member
You can also sort out some new books and have a read during the time when you can’t get out to the hives.
If you want a quick read try our e-book at https://www.cotswoldbees.co.uk/product/pdf-book-101-questions-a-beekeeper-should-ask
As you can see there is plenty to keep you busy during the time whilst you are waiting for the warmer weather and the bees to start flying again.