Checking The Honeybees At Heathrow Airport
After a cool crisp morning, the clouds began to peel back and the sun appeared.
Heathrow tends to stay warmer across the four seasons than the rest of the UK.
With that said it was still well below eight degrees Celcius, over which point honeybees will venture out to forage, below this temperature their vital functions slow to a stop and they die from the cold.
Even then, it needs to be a solid eight degrees, without a freezing wind for example.
During the colder seasons do not expect to see honeybees flying around, or even guarding the entrance.
Few, if any, insect predators will be out, looking for a meal.
The entire colony will be centered around the brood area of the beehive, maintaining between 32 and 35 Celcius depending upon the time of year.
This is irrespective of the temperature outside.
Critically, at the moment it is much too cold to open beehives for inspection.
Fortunately the hives I use allow for the roof to be removed, allowing food to be provided (Rarely needed).
However, I never, ever open them unless the temperature is such, that I would be comfortable in a tee-shirt (As an example).
Anything less temperature-wise, the cold air will rush down through the beehive and may kill the colony.
It takes an immense amount of effort and energy to reheat the beehive.
If they become too cold, they become incapacitated and can no longer heat the beehive.
In winter, less, is more!
Spring, summer, autumn on the other hand, well that is another story altogether.
Only one colony needed a little supplementary food.
It is not that they simply chomped through their honey stores.
Far from it, they were a late swarm and had little time to build up their reserves in the autumn.
Hence I keep an eye on them and ensure all is well.
If they are indeed native or, near-native honeybees, next following winter they should not need any extra food.
Beekeeping can be quite a solitary activity.
However, when accompanied by my trusty spaniel, the day is always filled with smiles.
Every moment, she is so happy to be alive, she has the right idea and keeps me grounded.
If a colony goes ‘into’ winter, then, runs short of food I would definitely re-queen the colony.
Requiring additional feeding demonstrates the colony is not highly suited (Native) to our climate.
To be honest, Heathrow is the warmest area in the UK for most of the year.
If a honeybee colony needs feeding over winter, they are most likely imports from Southern Europe or beyond.
Do not misunderstand, ALL honeybees are awesome, important creatures, irrespective of the sub-species and where they originated.
I simply follow mother natures advice and favour the sub-species that has evolved naturally in the UK over the last 10,000 years (since the last ice age).
Our native honeybees are much more suited to our climate, they rarely need feeding over winter, unless there is a problem of sorts..
That’s all, for now, folks, keep checking back as we begin the 2020 beekeeping season.