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January is a time of year when we spend a lot of our time cleaning, repairing and getting our equipment ready for the new season ahead. It has been a wet and windy winter so far, and at times we have been worried about our hives blowing over with the strength of some of the gales we’ve had recently, but we made sure that all our hives were securely strapped together going into winter.

We learn a lot about the bees here at Ashbrow, and for the first part of this term we have been learning all about winter feeding.  All our bees have survived the recent bad weather and high winds, and we were relieved to see them busily munching their winter fondant feed this week.  We try to check them every week, and so far we have just one of our 10 hives requiring a second pack of fondant.  It’s important to ensure the bees have plenty of food to last them through till the spring.

We hefted the hives this week and found them all to be a reasonably healthy weight, however, it is difficult to gauge accurately the amount of stores they have, and so the fondant is a safeguard should they need it.

At Ashbrow we have a long hive that we use for raising new queens and nucleus colonies. It allows us to raise 8 nucs in total. We currently have two resident overwintering colonies in there which allows us to see the bees through the clear crown boards.

A quick lift of the roof showed us that the bees were busy tucking into their fondant. There were a few spiders and woodlice taking refuge under the roof, but we are ok with that, after all, they too need a warm dry space for winter!

The bees seemed quite active despite the cold weather, but after an overnight frost and a fall of snow we saw the bees cluster up that little bit more.


A stethoscope is a useful piece of equipment to listen for the bees, and after checking each other’s heart beats, we listened for the sound of the bees inside their hive.  Judging by the big smiles on the children’s faces, it was clear that they could hear the bees inside.

When we are not checking the bees, we take every opportunity to learn everything about them.  Our plan this year is to raise some more queens through our breeding programme, (that’s another blog so watch this space – we’ll be reporting back in spring!), but in the meantime we have been learning about Queen Bees.  The children tried their hand at marking a bee, albeit a plastic one. A little more practice is needed but a valiant effort all the same.


We have been making sugar syrup this term too, ready for the spring. We weighed the sugar and water to the ratio of 1 part sugar to 1 part water, and enjoyed watching the sugar dissolve.  This was a great opportunity to learn about things that dissolve and to see the process in action.


                                                       'It's a sticky job but someone has to do it!"

The children couldn’t resist a lick of their sticky fingers, but said that the syrup was far too sweet for them, and that it was best given to the bees. 

Our Year 5 children are learning about plants and pollination this term, so it what better time to do a spot of plant dissection and learn about the different parts of the flower and the process of pollination. We chose to dissect a lily and some daffodils.  The children produced some excellent work!

Well that’s everything for now, but do come back and read our blog for Spring 2 term. We’ve got an exciting year ahead!

Photos:  Ashbrow School