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Habitat loss and honey theft

posted Nov 12, 2019, 1:34 PM by Helen Mooney   [ updated Nov 12, 2019, 1:40 PM ]
Beekeepers work hard, of that there is no doubt. By way of compensation, we feel entitled to take winter stores from our bees. The amount we take in an indication of our regard for those very bees that we labour alongside, all summer long. The amount we take is driven by completely individual needs: a sick child,  the need to make a hobby pay, greed and ignorance are but a few of the driving forces.

Through our training courses we aim to guide beginners on how much honey to take, if they so wish, and how to supply emergency feed if they think their colony is too light on stores, for whatever the reason. A new colony in the hands of a beginner is vulnerable and it is not easy, as a supplier of nucs, to place a nuc into the hands of a beginner, becuase only experience can provide the absolute skills needed to get a new colony through the winter.

There are no guarantees- predators, disease, a poorly mated queen, the ever decreasing lack of forage and other unforseen circumstances all stack the odds of survival against the new colony as well as the new beekeeper.  Training beyond a beginners class is absolutely essential and can be provided in your local association during winter meetings, study groups and in the summer, through workshops or routine apiary visits under mentorship.  Given time, you will gain the skills, grow in confidence and be able to thoroughly enjoy the bees, secure in your new found knowledge of the annual colony cycle and associated behaviours.

Nutrition is key, and personally, we prefer to feed bees their own honey, in times of dearth.   We may find that ivy has gone solid on frames in a super that did not get removed but is only partially full.  We then cut out that honey and feed it back to colonies that appear light in the autumn or if it is capped, we store it until mid winter or Spring.  We leave ekes on all winter in case we have to feed fondant or preferably, ivy honey cut out of super frames. If bees are not being fed, the ekes can be stuffed with a natural insulating material like old woolen jumpers, hessian sacking, wood chippings enclosed in a pillow case or such like. The material can act as a wick and deliver moisture away from the cluster out through a vent in the roof.

As for the reference to "honey theft", well, I am sure there is no need to call in the forensics scientists. Hard work is always rewarded, and so we respect and enjoy our honey, secure in the knowledge that we have left plenty for our bees and done everything else we possibly could for the wellbeing of those bees.