Ben’s Tips for Getting Ready For Spring
Brighter days in Melbourne have me thinking about the onset of spring. As I described, the last week’s blue skies and smiling faces have me wanting to share some information about what I have been up to over winter in preparation for the bees emerging from their snooze.
Just because the cold has set in, doesn’t mean I have slowed down. In fact, I have been as busy as ever! As many of you know, I recently took a sojournment to Europe during their summer to experience different ways of keeping, learning from some of the most knowledgeable and kind-hearted people I have met to date. This trip filled me with new information and ideas for the coming year, and I am excited about the many developments that are happening at Ben’s Bees (so stay tuned!).
Since arriving home, I have been a busy little bee, working around the clock to get ready for the soon-arriving bee season. This has included: making bee-supers to increase the strength of my hives; building new boxes, lids and bases to replace those old hives that have exceeded their expiry date; and, perhaps the biggest job of all, wiring and embedding the frames. So far I have 300 frames already prepared for spring; the scary thing is I know I will run out! Like other love-jobs, there is no real time off for a beekeeper. Even when the sun goes down I am rugged up inside with my family, making candles and wax products as the kids play and sleep.
October is by far the busiest month for me, as new keepers become interested in bees and setting up their own hives. This is always a thrill for me, as there’s nothing I love more than spreading an interest in bees. I also find that fresh beekeepers from the previous year decide to expand their hobby to house more hives on their property! It brings a smile to my face watching someone’s hobby grow, and keepers reap their first batches of honey for the kitchen pantry. Something I found really exciting and refreshing about Europe is this ‘slow’ approach to food and life; by keeping your own bees, producing your own honey and buying locally, you are part of this way of living. For me, this perspective on life nurtures the soul and rewards independent business over large, and sometimes unethical, corporations.
So, what does springtime mean for the bees? Actually, spring can be a little dangerous for a colony of bees! This is especially true of the Italian sub species we have here in Australia. Unlike the Caucasians and Carniolans, Italian honey bees increase breeding within the hive. This means that if we get a false start to spring and winter conditions come back, the bees starve! Over winter bees decrease their numbers as more mouths to feed means more food is needed. But in spring the bees will procreate as they need to increase numbers of foragers and increase their population if they wish to swarm. So I recommend you keep an eye on your colony; even feeling the weight of the hive is a good indicator of their current food supply and whether they require more to get them through to warmer times. My fondant is perfect for doing this: it isn’t runny or messy, attracts less wasps that other liquid substitutes and boosts your bees so they are happy until they can source food themselves.
Another tip is to have your honey super with frames ready to go! Believe me, time comes around fast and it’s better to be prepared than find the colony has swarmed and half the workforce has gone! I always recommend having a spare box ready with a base and lid in case your bees do decide to swarm. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing your bees fly away!