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Giving bees a helping hand in winter

Monday, October 26, 2015

Honeybees and bumblebees are essential for the reproduction of plants. They pollinate plants, which allows them to grow and produce the food we consume. So they are important on a human scale - they aren't just a hobby for DIY beekeepers.

But honeybees and bumblebees are declining, and as a result, so too is our own food.

Bees in winter

While we associate bees with summer, they can be found in winter.

If you find a bee in winter, it could be a queen bee. You will know whether it is, because it will be large by bee standards. But even if it is a worker bee, you will - if you have any empathy at all - immediately feel sorry for it. It will move slowly, struggle to fly and just appear sad. This is because it doesn't have the energy it would have in summer, when there are plenty of plants to pollinise and therefore, there is lots of honey to consume.

How can I give a bee a helping hand?

Bees need energy to survive and they eat honey to get this energy. Flying takes up a lot of a bee's energy, so when you see one in winter when the weather is horrible, you can assume that it's going to extreme lengths to help itself and, importantly, its colony.

You can help the bee by taking it to a sheltered area of your garden, an area that won't be hit by a lot of rainfall or be subject to a lot of wind. This will give the bee an opportunity to rest. You shouldn't take the bee inside with you or leave it in a box or jar, because you may be disrupting its mission, which could well be to locate a new nest for the colony. However, you may do this if the weather is absolutely impossible for the bee to survive in.

You can go further, by providing the bee a food source of sugar solution (50 / 50 sugar and warm water). The bee will lap this up, and it will use this newfound energy to heat its body up and fly away. You should provide a small amount of sugar solution that's just enough for the one bee, so that it doesn't bring more bees to the spot (the best way to make an ideal measurement is to fill up a water bottle cap, or milk bottle cap) to the top. We don't recommend feeding the bee honey, due to a study that found this may increase mortality.

I've found a beehive that's not doing well. What should I do?

If you find a beehive that's being battered by the winter weather, then it is at risk of failing, and causing the death of hundreds of bees. If you are concerned, then call us. We have relocated many bee hives safely in Berkshire, Newbury, Thatcham and Hungerford, allowing bee colonies to live their very productive lives.

Give us a call on 01635 250 852 to find out more.

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