A Year in the Life of a Honey bee Colony
By Lindsay Wilson
Many bee books sold in Australia talk of different degrees of weather extremes. If we look at aspects of the ‘honey bees‘ life in the southern Australian temperate climate, from winter through to summer and back to winter it is not the same as the northern hemisphere, so most bee books are only a guide in our hives.
Nectar is available for our bees almost all year in the suburbs, although with highs and lows dependant on the season. Yes we go from 60,000-70,000 bees in the hive in summer down to 8,000-10,000 bees in winter but it’s not from snow and frosts over a long snow and ice season, but from the wind and rain on a day by day basis. Cool temperatures with wind and rain prevent the bees from flying, a temperature below 10 degrees centigrade and wind over 24km’s per hour and the bees stay home. Rain and dew will dilute the nectar making it not viable for the bees to collect and the same goes for damp pollen.
Going in to winter the brood area of the hive gets a lot smaller but the bees must always keep this nursery, with the eggs and larva, at a warm 32 degrees centigrade average.
Then at the end of July our Queen starts to increase her egg laying, continuing the build-up of numbers for spring.
Towards the end of August, the bee keeper will be doing swarm prevention. From the end of September through to Christmas is swarm season. Putting out a Nuc box as a bait hive is good insurance, this can also be the time for splitting hives with ones Nuc box.
Mid October to the start November “over-supering” of the hives can be done. I like to use ‘Ideal’ super boxes. New beekeepers and or new bee hives will have less honey production as all the frames of foundation need to be drawn out so the bees must produce a lot of wax and burning up their honey. Feeding will help and if it is a new hive from a swarm, re-queening the hive may be a good option because the swarm has come with an old Queen.
Most of the honey can be taken about the middle of December through to early April (robbing the hives).
In late April the hives can be closed down for winter. Needing three quarters of a box of stored honey on top of a brood box. The brood box should have 2 or 3 frames of food, (6-8 full frames total) should get your bees to spring. This is for a bad winter, if not the way to look at it is you just have honey in the bank. Last year (2016-17) was a bad year for honey and this year predictions are for a mild winter some predict a 60% chance of El-Niño. ABC Landline in end of May covering next 3 months. Just make sure the bees have enough food, especially in spring.