All of our hives, here at Mendip are Modified National and are constructed of Western Red Cedar. Although Red Cedar has excellent natural weather proof qualities, I still give them all a coat of wood preservative before bringing them into use and again should one become vacant, for whatever reason, before re-using it. I should mention here, that before re-use and before the preservative, the internal surfaces of all hive parts are given a quick scorching with a blowlamp.
All the hives have mesh floors, and that’s how the bees over-winter here. Having good air circulation at all times, especially when the bees are clustering, is to my mind, the best way to keep bees. It is a widely held view that bees have to be kept warm if they are to over-winter successfuly, this is not a view that I share, bees are not warm blooded creatures,damp and starvation, are in my opinion, the main causes of colony failure during the winter. Having open mesh floors in place with the ventilation they provide must certainly, in my opinion, assist in preventing the build up of damp. It has to be said, if you let your bees go into Winter without sufficient stores, you are deluding yourself if you blame the cold for their failure. I have heard it said that inserting the floor slides for a few weeks in early Spring assists the queen and early brood production.I intend to try that on three of the colonies this year. If it works, then in future the practice will be adopted with all the hives, if not, then it’s back to plan “A”, I’ll let you know. I should mention that floor slides are inserted while varroa treatments are in place and for a couple of hours following a dusting of icing sugar.
So, how have the bees over-wintered, I am very hopeful that they have faired well. Feeding was completed before the end of September and the mouse guards went on straight afterwards. I had united 5 & 6 just prior to that as 6 had become queenless and they wintered on two brood boxes. We administered our Oxalic acid in January, this provided an oportunity to have a quick look at the colonies, without in any way disturbing the clusters. Glad to say, they all had plenty of stores and looked in really good health, 1 & 2 had been on two brood chambers all year and were exceptionally strong.It is my intention this year to keep three colonies on two brood chambers. Providing 5, previously 5 & 6, come out of the Winter well, they will be left on two chambers. I shall run three hives on 1 1/2, that is to say, brood and super and two on single brood chamber. The purpose behind this is to enable me to hopefully, to accurately compare the various brood configurations, and eventually, arrive at a method which best suits us here.
So, back to the hives, the entrance blocks have two openings,on adjacent faces, one about six inches wide and the other restricted. It is an easy matter to alter the entrance, one has simply to revolve the block. I use only wired queen excluders,the zinc ones are a waste of space in my opinion. Each brood chamber is equiped with eleven Hoffman frames and one dummy board. I use Manley frames in my supers, unless they are being used as extended brood chambers, in which case they are configured as the brood’s. I replaced the crown boards on two of the hives with Brother Adam feeders last year, this year all the hives will be treated the same, I’ll explain why later. My roofs are lined with a thin sheet of polestyrene, it’s actually laminate underlay. I just have a feeling that a little insulation under the roof may help prevent condensation in the event of a prolonged hard Winter, if it doesn’t, well there’s nothing lost, is there. So that pretty much describes the hives here at Mendip, speak to you again soon.