Nottinghamshire Beekeepers' Association

Feeding your bees

Feeding in the winter

1. Bees are vulnerable at this time of year
2. Make sure your bees don't run out of food
3. Provide fondant if you think they are short of stores
4. A small investment on fondant might turn out to have been invaluable

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 This is a quiet month in the apiary: the activities within the hive lessen as the days shorten, for now there is 
little forage for the bees beside a little pollen from late flowering plants such as Michaelmas daisies and ivy 
and hardly any nectar. Because of this reduced activity the lifespan of the workers is dramatically increased and 
most of these autumn bees will survive until early spring, ready to take up their duties when the colony begins 
to expand. Since our bees do not hibernate but simply slow down their metabolism, they require food in order 
to survive and to provide the energy needed to heat and ventilate the cluster. In mild weather the cluster 
expands and the bees fan their wings to cool and ventilate the hive: in cold weather the cluster contracts and 
the bees vibrate their powerful flight muscles to generate heat. 
 It is vital that each colony has sufficient stores to see it through the winter season and that these stores 
are close enough to the winter cluster for the bees to access if the weather becomes very cold. After a 
prolonged cold spell it may be advisable to quickly open the hive to check that the cluster has not contracted 
too far away from their stores and, if that is the case, to move combs of food right against the cluster. If the 
bees are at the top of the frames with no food above them, place some fondant, candy or damp sugar bags 
directly on top of the frames- you will need an eke or empty super to give space, which can be filled with 
quilting or some other form of insulation such as bubble wrap. Running out of food shouldn’t really happen in 
November/December if the bees have been properly fed but accidents can happen and a really quick check
should do no harm.
 Jobs for November 
~ continue to monitor Varroa drop and plan further treatment if needed eg oxalic acid 
~ check that your hives remain secure against predators, weather and flooding 
 ~ check your hives for damage after strong winds and adverse weather 
~ check that hive entrances are clear of debris, dead bees, snow etc 
~ keep Varroa floor inserts clear of debris that may allow wax moth to breed 
~ complete cleaning, repairing, sterilising and storing your equipment 
~ de-coke your smoker, clean your hive tool, wash your beesuit 
~ complete your colony records and your Varroa treatment record card 
~ continue to evaluate your beekeeping season and make plans for the new one 
~ read or re-read those beekeeping books and maybe enrol on a course 
~ melt down and clean all those bits of wax and make candles, hand cream, soap 
Bee at work