I would love to gloat that I have been extremely busy with a successful honey harvest, getting sticky and smothered in sweet amber. However, the honey harvest was somewhat patchy this year. This meant only some lucky bees and their beekeepers harvested good quantities of honey. Less fortunate bees struggled to find enough to survive, let alone fill their beekeepers’ honey pots. Fortunately, some of my girls produced enough for me to make my winter health potions and prize-winning feijoa honey drizzle (see recipe below), plus enough left over to share amongst those hives with less stores.
This years’ honey dearth also meant I was left with less “stickies” to store. A stickie is a frame of honey after the honey has been removed. I prefer to cellophane wrap my stickies and then freeze them for 48 hours. The wrap protects the frames from ants, and by freezing them I kill any wax moth that might be present on frames. The damn wax moth can wreak havoc to combs in storage.
As winter is on its way, it is important to check that your autumn varroa treatment functioned and to remove the varroa strips after 6-8 weeks so as not to create resistance to the treatment. Next check the amount of honey within each hive to ensure your bees have sufficient supplies and are strong enough to survive the cold season. I personally leave each hive with at least four frames of honey, plus pollen stores and room for brood (eggs and larvae). I also reduce the hive entrances to protect from robbing and for warmth. There are various ways to reduce a hive entrance: pieces of wood, duct tape, polystyrene or, in my case, some good Italian wine corks. My bees prefer Prosecco, although I am sure a good NZ bubbly works just as well. I also change from screened bottom boards to solid bottom boards for warmth and then tilt the hives slightly forward to permit condensation to drain out from the hive.
During winter the queen will reduce her laying cycle, and bees will form a cluster in the centre of the hive. Clustering is the bees’ way of keeping the brood warm. I prefer not to inspect my hives during this time, although a brief inspection can be carried out by being careful not to break apart the main cluster and by checking for stores, which will be on the outer frames.
Grass’ Feijoa Honey Drizzle
100g raw honey,
1 large firm feijoa,
Wash the feijoa (must be a firm feijoa) and cut into thick round slices. Squeeze lime juice over the slices of feijoa. Add the feijoa to the honey and leave to marinate for a couple of days, occasionally swirling the fruit in the jar. Drizzle feijoa honey over muesli, porridge, pancakes, ice cream and cakes. Add a teaspoon to your morning cup of tea or just eat spoonfuls of the stuff.