WINTER SURVIVAL OF THE SWARM NEST

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This video shows a honey bee swarm building a nest in a rotting tree stump on Wilden Marsh, which can spell disaster if the weather suddenly takes a turn for the worst. Autumn swarms can result in two depleted bee colonies being unable to muster enough honey for the winter. Without food, the bees are fighting a losing battle, often meaning the destruction of one or both nests/hives from starvation. Possibly, their only hope is for a local beekeeper to rescue them. I contacted our local bee group and was advised to leave them to take their chances with nature or cover the swarm with a piece of plywood.

I feel I have let too many honey bee swarms perish on Wilden Marsh through inaction on my part. I have decided to do something positive to improve the chances of this swarm making it through winter. The bees are exposed to all our weather can throw at them, and with the prospect of cold autumn/winter weather just around the corner, I made and fitted a protective wooden enclosure over the nest this morning using scrap pieces of wood from my workshop. Agitated and confused honey bees circled for quite some time, trying to work out what was happening, but they soon found a new route to their nest. I wouldn’t be concerned if this nest was high up in a tree, but it is exposed 300 mm to 600 mm from the ground and likely to be raided by badgers. 

I made this 10-minute long video to record my lowly attempt at helping protect the honey bee swarm from unfavourable weather.

Honey bees can survive freezing winter temperatures because mother nature has equipped them with highly developed survival mechanisms and strategies. Simply put, honey bees must create their own heat source and maintain a food supply inside the hive/nest to ensure they make it to spring. Sometimes, when bees get things wrong, they can benefit from human intervention: a theory that can lead to highly contested debates, I suspect.

The honey bees have their first artificial feed: I poured half a jam jar of white granulated sugar on a log, forming a sugar cone, immediately under the nest enclosure. I also secreted ten crab apples at various places within the structure. Two hours later, the bees had removed almost all the sugar. A few wasps also took advantage of the free sugar.

The air and ground around the nest were literally buzzing with industrious bees rushing to get their food stores laid down before the arrival of cold weather. I have been thinking of making solid sugar lollipops with a wire running through them to hang in the spaces between the logs and the wooden nest enclosure. Any advice on the practicality of feeding with solid sugar lollipops would be appreciated. I envisage a lollipop size of 25mm diameter by 100mm.

4 Comments on “WINTER SURVIVAL OF THE SWARM NEST

  1. Beekeepers feed the bees with either fondant, a softish sugar cake that they can scrape at, or a thick sugar solution that they can dip into (this need careful thinking about so the bees can’t fall in and get trapped). I doubt solid lollipops would be of use to them.

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