It's been extremely cold here, minus temperatures every day for over a week, so of course our heating took the opportunity to break down...! Luckily we had plenty of wood to burn and duvets to snuggle under, plus I dug out recipes for 'stick-to-your-ribs' meals, so we managed to cope. It was quite shocking to see sheets of ice floating down the river in front of our house; we half-expected to see polar bears on them, it was that chilly. Each day has been beautifully sunny too, with the frost sparkling prettily in the garden.
Most people think our bees are hibernating at this time of year, and it's true that they are less active, clustered together in the middle of the hive, maintaining their warmth and consuming their stores. However, on sunny warmer days they are inclined to venture out, to stretch their wings and have a poo - well, they've been inside for a long time! The problem with the current weather is that yes, the sun is shining, but the air temperature is far too cold for bees. The sun reflecting off the frost dupes the bees into thinking that it's warm enough to go outside, but they don't get very far before the cold air kills them. As you can imagine, it's really sad to be clearing dead bees from the hive entrance.
The bees are also eating a lot to help them maintain their strength (see previous blogs about candy-feeding), and it's important that we ensure they have enough supplies. Regular checks are vital. One of our hives is getting through quite a bit of candy, around 500g a week, so I expect to see some fat bees in the Spring! The photo above shows one bee from this hive catching some rays at the weekend when I was replacing the candy; she clearly valued a spot of sunbathing. It's heartening to see healthy bees at this time of year; I can't wait for the warmer weather to arrive so I can inspect the hives fully to see how they've fared over the winter.