Continuing wet weather & feeding

I am finding that, with the continuing wet weather, several of the smaller swarms that I hived earlier in the year are now out of stores.  This became obvious yesterday when I hefted the boxes, and was confirmed by looking up from underneath the boxes on those that do not have observation windows.  While strong colonies have managed to fly and collect a little nectar in recent days and have built up stores during the better spells of weather, the small swarms have not had sufficient bee numbers to do this.  Instead, they have stayed at home, preserving their energy but are now in danger of starving.  Because of poor weather after these swarms were hived, they were all given a small amount of feed several weeks ago.  I am now repeating that, particularly given that the forecast is for continued wet weather for the coming days .

Depending on the local forage available to your bees, the local weather and the strength of your colonies, it is possible that small swarms that you have hived this year are in the same position.  My advice is to check them and, if you feel it appropriate, to consider giving them some assistance.  I know some will say ‘no’ to this, but we all stand in slightly different positions on the ‘natural’ spectrum.

Gareth, West Oxfordshire

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10 Responses to Continuing wet weather & feeding

  1. woodturner101 says:

    Thanks for thr warning Gareth, it is appreciated. As for me I will give my bees a helping hand if needed. I see no point in letting them starve to death, for one thing it can’t be a nice way to go, I know I wouldn’t want to die that way. After all the bees cannot control the weather and if a timely help will get them through a rough time so be it. However I understand there are many ways of looking at all situations. So horses for courses.

    Tony – South Yorkshire

  2. ingrid says:

    Hear hear to that Tony! Timely advice Gareth as I was wondering just this morning whether to feed again. I had fed the bees with no comb to speak of a couple of weeks ago and will top them up now. The other swarm which came with store from the national they had ‘squatted’ in must be pretty deplete now too so will feed them as well. The hives are under lime trees but the blossom has not yet opened. I hope for dry weather when it does. What a summer – no apples this year and nothing much is growing in the veg garden as it’s so cold, bleak and wet.

  3. tramcaro says:

    I, too, thought your advice came at just the right time, Gareth. Thanks for that. I got a reasonably sized swarm a week ago and have been feeding them constantly ever since: they have got a lot of work to do in the way of comb building alone. A handful of them died within a few days, looking through the observation window, but there is a lot of activity going on. I am alarmed today, however, to see some spotting/streaks of pooh on the front of the hive. They may have got nosema. What natural medicine do I give them?.
    I am also going to put an Ashforth on top of my National just in case. Presumably if bees can fly and collect nectar, they wouldn’t take syrup???

    • simplebees says:

      What sugar did you use to make the feed?

      BTW, as local factors are so important to bees, could everyone please put their name and location at the end of their posts?

      Gareth, West Oxfordshire

      • tramcaro says:

        I use British granulated. The problem appears to have gone away and there is no more evidence of nosema. Presumably those infected have died and luckily not passed it on.
        The now-not-so-new swarm is doing really well and appear to be loving the top bar method. Some wonderful comb being made. Lots of activity. Very exciting.

  4. Chris Crook says:

    Hi,
    its been raining a lot in my area (not unusual for Wimbledon Tennis weeks !) but the temperature has been high so my bees have not been put off foraging. Would it be safe to think that temperature plays a bigger part in the bees decision to not go out, rather than light or medium rain ? Plants/flowers are loving the rain so can’t all be bad 🙂

    Chris – Surrey

    • simplebees says:

      Whether the bees are flying at this time of year (‘summer’, haha) is mainly determined by whether plants are secreting nectar. All plants need moisture to do this and some (such as clover) also need warmth, while others, such as bramble, are not so fussy. In the case of the latter, unless the rain is heavy enough to wash the nectar away, there is likely to be some nectar, at least, for bees to collect. The question then shifts to whether the rain is too heavy to allow the bees to fly and, more subtly, whether the energy expended in collecting nectar is outweighed by the energy gained therefrom. Different hives come out at different places when assessing the latter. That is why, in marginal conditions, most of the foragers in a weak hive, whose energy balance may already be precarious, may opt to stay at home, while a strong hive next door continues to fly heavily.

      Gareth, West Oxfordshire

  5. Hello Gareth,
    I am an absolute beginner. I have a swarm of Quentins bees. I think you have visited them as I live very near him. Today I saw little white lumps on the hive floor and entrance also, a couple of dead bees at the entrance mixed with a lot of others that seem to have died about a week ago. Other than that they all seem fine. They were foraging this morning before the rain came, and are warm and busy inside. Any ideas what the white blobs might be?
    Lisanne Stroud, Glos

    • simplebees says:

      Hi Lisanne

      Any chance of a photo? Or maybe more by way of description, eg texture, size, consistency. Possibilities are hive debris of some sort, or young pupae that have been ejected, maybe drone pupae that are surplus to requirements.

      Gareth, West Oxfordshire

      • Hi Gareth,
        I think I have solved the mystery. I think the white blobs are comb. I think its where the new young have hatched and the ‘lids’ are what I am seeing on the floor of the hive. I was watching them just now and have seen some of the bees carrying them back up to the brood box. quite a lot of lids all at once though?
        Another question. When I visited the hive in the pouring rain yesterday eve I saw what I thought looked like a queen fly out of the hive and into the rain. No other bees were coming or going at all. This bee was much longer than the others. She just flew off into the rain and it was torrential. Any ideas?
        Thank you,
        Lisanne

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