Sandgate Community Garden: Update 1 November 2020

As we are heading into November & with shorter and cooler days now our bees are safely beginning to cluster for warmth in their hives.  We have been seeing the last of the Ivy flowers and with temperatures now below 18 DegC the start of the winter formation ensues with a loose cluster of bees which gets tighter as the temps drop further. They behave like penguins in the Antarctic & switch positions to ensure that the outside layer of bees do not get too cold. 

Bees use their indirect flight muscles to generate heat in the depth of winter and so the reliance in available food stores to survive.  The average colony can consume over 20kG of honey stores during the winter and so Chris & I have been checking on the colonies and supplying syrup for the bees to convert into their winter larder.  Lifting the corner of the hive to gauge the weight is called hefting and to assess the available internal honey stores and the need to feed. If any more food is needed, then baker’s fondant or wetted sugar can be placed for the Dec/Jan period.

The beekeeper will not open the hives for routine inspections right around to March next year and so to preserve the heat within the hive. 

The brood in the colony will be decreasing as the queen reduces her egg-laying to the point whereby there will be no brood to be fed by the end of November.  The curve below is a useful reference to the volume of adult bees throughout the year in comparison to available brood which can be seen to drop off at the end of November leaving the winter workforce to live through the winter period until the next March, when the first of the new season bees will be hatched.

The hives are also prepared externally for potential green woodpecker attacks through the hive wall and with reduced entrances with mouse guards to avoid the temptation of mice looking for a winter home!  They must also be well anchored from the Channel gales that we are likely to endure.

The winter period is a time for the beekeeper to look ahead to training needs & the participation in several Zoom Beekeeping informative sessions, cleaning and also the preparation of equipment & hardware in readiness for the 2021 season & hopefully a happy & safe one at that.

With thanks & regards from Chris & Ray – The SAGA Beekeeping Team.

How very timely that we should receive news from Kent County Council about Kent’s Plan Bee with an invitation to the official launch online.  This is a virtual summit to discuss the council’s action plan for pollinators to reverse ‘serious declines in forage and habitat which harms them and us’.  Please take a look at the information on the poster shown below in the photographs, for information on how you can register for this important, free summit.

Not much movement from the bees in the garden this week, and not much from the gardeners either, thwarted by wind and rain.  According to a local rain gauge, we have had 230.4 mm of rain in October; apparently the average rainfall for this month is around 60mm.  We usually complain about the lack of water, but certainly not this month as it seems we have had more than our fair share!

What’s next?

  • Tidy the space around the new composting area
  • If it stops raining, finish wood treatment on compost bins
  • Sow last of the broad beans and few last peas
  • Continue to fish leaves out of the pond and leave on the side for wildlife to get back in pond!
  • Continue to tidy space ready for the big compost spread.