API of the Month

Mathieu Domecq

Editor-in-chief of the API blog of the month

A new year of beekeeping! On behalf of the entire API SÜDZUCKER team, we would like to wish you a successful year full of new opportunities and happiness, with plenty of nectar for your bees! Thanks to the many of you who follow us, we are able to support you for the fourth year in a row!

This month, we will be looking at why we need to feed our bees. Then, we’ll discover that not all bees are the same, and that they have personalities like us!

Did you know that the number of bees in the colony decreases from 50,000 to fewer than 20,000 individuals in winter?

Mathieu Domeq

This month’s work

A new season is upon us! Yet our bees still need us, especially for food. Climate change and the lack of diversity in resources mean that they need us even more, just like we will always need them! Here is a summary of the beekeeping work for January:

Bee hives in Winter

– Monitor the sugar resources: after laying a sugar loaf in December, it is usually necessary to add more during the winter. I recommend checking the stock between mid-January and early February. Despite placing 2.5 kg of APIFONDA®, most beehives will have consumed this in one and a half months. As a reminder, this sugar paste must be placed just above the cluster of bees. If you weigh your beehives every month, you will notice that they lose between 500 g and 1 kg of their weight each month! This decline will accelerate in January and February.

Clean the beehive: a beekeeper’s winter activities include maintaining your beehives, clearing the brush around them, repainting them and checking the stability of their roofs.

– Disinfect the empty beehives: flash a blowtorch inside your empty crates. This will remove any contagious spores. A well-maintained beehive will still be standing in 30 years!

– Wax the frames: why not start making your own frames? If you plan to make a lot of divisions next year, you will need waxed frames. Assembling a few frames will always be useful! Use wax sheets and a 24 V transformer for this task.

Honey flower of the month: Hazel

Bees in the hive

Why help the bees?

The winter survival of bee colonies is a theme that divides beekeepers. And if you are starting out in beekeeping, you often find yourself lost. Over the years, experienced beekeepers will rely on their experience and closely observe the weather variations to understand the behaviour of their bees when the box is closed: Has the queen stopped laying? Are there sufficient stocks? How large is the brood to be kept warm?

Ultimately, do you really have to feed your bees if there are enough reserves in autumn?

For large colonies that have produced a lot, been properly fed and treated against varroa, surviving the winter should not be an issue. On the other hand, you need to ask yourself the right questions about the surface area of the beehive in relation to the volume of the cluster. When you opened your beehives last month to lay the first sugar loaf as I advised you, you will have seen that in some beehives the cluster only occupies 3 or 4 frames out of 10! This results in significant heat loss, which can lead to over-consumption of the honey and/or sugar reserves. All it will take is for the cold to return this month or in February and your colony will get through them! You could then find the swarm in a cluster, frozen dead. And take it from my experience, this happens to even the most seasoned beekeepers.

So, in response to the question of whether the bees really need to be fed, the answer is yes! Beekeepers 30 or 50 years ago didn’t have the same approach to beekeeping as we do today, and a lot has now changed. We have had to adapt to the climate and therefore to our bees.

So, should you feed them with APIINVERT ® syrup or APIFONDA ® sugar paste? When it is cold, the bees will not consume the syrup in your feeder because it is too far away from the cluster and often too cold to be absorbed by the worker bees. On the other hand, sugar paste is the best solution. Place it on top of the frames to be as close as possible to the cluster — they will find it as soon as the temperatures get milder. Sugar paste like our APIFONDA® also has the advantage of being consumed for immediate use and not stored for later use. In addition, sugar paste does not stimulate the queen’s laying (too much), unlike syrup. In winter, this prevents an imbalance between the feeders and the brood at the same time.

Surprisingly, bees have a personality!

It seems that bees do have a personality! When I came across an article from the University of Illinois in the United States, I just had to share this information with you.

The study showed that we had two groups of bees in the same beehive: some look for adventure and something new (like when swarming or searching for food), while others prefer safety and stay in places they already know. This is a personality trait of the bee.

The difference in behaviour is said to come from the genes handed down. So, a curious human and a curious bee apparently have these genes in common, but with a few differences, of course!

As usual, share your photos with us. They will be posted on our website from social media using the hashtag: #apifonda #apiinvert!

We shall be back next month on your API blog with your faithful partner, Les Ruchers De Mathieu!


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Photos ©lesruchersdemathieu

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