As we are approaching the Ides of March, your beautiful bees will have already gladdened your heart with delightful forays into the world of early pollen during the midday hours of sunny winter days. Now is is vital to keep a careful eye on their honey stores to help ensure a good transition between the winter bees gradually reaching the end of their lives, and the new arrivals needing constant sustenance.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position to have to feed your bees with anything other than honey, you may wish to consult Gareth John’s recipe for preparing an invert syrup that it lighter on the bees’ digestion and energy than the usual formulations.
Here is the recipe:
1) Make a nettle tea with a good bunch of stinging nettles Urtica dioica, (half a dozen long stems) infused in a litre of boiling water for several minutes.
2) Strain off the nettles and use the tea to make sugar syrup, either 1:1 or 2:1 by volume or weight (it doesn't matter which).
3) Add a good squeeze of lemon juice while the mixture is hot - about half a lemon per litre. This starts the inversion of the sugar.
4) Allow the mix to cool to blood temp (stand the pan in cold water to speed the process) and add a good sprinkle of quick dissolving vitamin C powder (it is often sold in large tubs which are costly, but it is also good for colds) -about a rounded teaspoon per litre. Vitamin C breaks down at high temps, so cooling is important.
5) Stir vigorously to mix the vitamin C. The greenish tinge from the nettle tea should disappear and the mix will thicken noticeably as the acidic vitamin C completes the inversion process.
6) The final result should taste like a slightly tart Seville orange, not too tart or the bees will not take it. Extra vitamin C can always be added but it can't be taken away, so err under rather than over to begin with.
7) The mix keeps well as vitamin C is a natural preservative and the nettles add micronutrients.
8) Experience shows that the mixture is taken from a contact feeder even in cold weather if a drop of something good smelling is added, such as organic rose geranium.
Regarding the bees’ honey stores you were probably as surprised as we were to hear what a beekeeper with whom we recently shared air time on a little BBC feature had to say. For viewers in Britain it will be available on i-player for another week. The views uttered by a trustee of the BBKA, whilst indefensible on all counts, serve to encourage us to step up our efforts to engage with the general public about the great need to free the bees from the kind of beekeeping taught and propagated by that organisation.
We will continue to urge for a more cautious consumption of honey, and a deeper appreciation of the marvellous substance it is, prepared by the bees to assure their survival over not just one winter, but several seasons ahead.
Natural Bee Husbandry Magazine