I recently heard Julie Andrews being interviewed about The Sound of Music, and of course Mary Poppins. Hence the title, however the outfit you wear for beekeeping makes even a nanny's uniform look glamorous.
The bees have not done well this winter. It's been mild, and the bees have been out flying too much. Cold temperatures are much better for bees, it encourages them to stay in a more dormant state, and they use less of their food stores. When the weather is too warm they go out making foraging flights, but of course there's nothing for them to find in February. Round here the trees are yet to start flowering, and the spring bulbs are only just starting to come out.
We harvest honey from our hives, but try to make sure to leave them enough stores for winter. How much to leave is something of a guessing game, and partly down to experience. We thought we'd left them plenty of stores, but apparently not. By early February 2 of the 3 hives had eaten all their stored honey. We gave them fondant icing to eat, but for some reason the bees never went up in the super to eat it and unfortunately 2 colonies starved before we realised they weren't eating their supplemental feed.
The 3rd colony however was still alive, so to try and make sure they stayed that way we're now feeding them sugar syrup. This mimics the nectar they get from flowers, and will keep them alive until the spring flowers start providing them with enough food.
The next few weeks will be sticky ones involving pans of sugar syrup....
Bee Proboscis drinking up the syrup. Look closely at the bottom of the ridged clear plastic.
The syrup goes in to a tray that sits on top of the hive, the bees can come up in the syrup feeder via wooden cone with a hole in the middle. The clear plastic lid stops them drowning in their own food because they can only get down to the base of the cone to drink in a small gap.
The hive lid goes on top of the whole thing, and the bees get breakfast in bed!