Right now, the New Zealand nights are getting longer, and our nippy friend Jack Frost is even putting in the occasional appearance. So we thought that now the harvest is done and dusted, we’d ask our intrepid beekeepers what they’re up to with their winter prep.
Hive calls: giving our bees a clean bill of health
After we’ve harvested all that lovely Mānuka honey, our beekeepers start doing their rigorous disease and hive health check-ups. This means condensing the hives down to make them smaller and cosier. This makes it easier for our beekeepers to give them a full check for disease and hive health, and helps the hives maintain their temperature as colonies reduce in bee numbers to go through winter. We then move the hives to the bees’ favourite winter holiday spots. At the same time, we’ll pop in the varroa mite strips to keep those nasty little suckers (and we mean this quite literally) under control.
Then it’s a food check, making sure that the bees have plenty of pollen and honey to eat through the winter. We feed our clover honey frames back to the hives to keep the bees healthy and give them the best chance of surviving the cold temperatures during winter by having enough food stores.
Location, location: choosing our winter hive sites
Shelter is important, to make sure our bees get the best winter vacation possible.
When scouting for winter hives sites, we look for spots that get full sun, morning to afternoon. This is to keep the bees warm and active but also to keep the moisture out of the hives and our hive gear. Sites should be out of the wind as much as possible. Partly this is to keep the bees cosy, but it also makes our beekeepers’ jobs a bit easier when they’re checking hives on those chilly early mornings.
Access all areas: getting to the good spots
Our beekeepers need to be able to check on their stripy little workers during winter months so we pick well drained areas that are easily accessible from autumn through to spring. We don’t want to mess up or damage the beautiful remote countryside, so we only choose locations that are either dry and easy to access via 4WD (or side by side for the ones that are a bit slippery). Sites also need to be in a spot that won’t get flooded in heavy rain.
Thought for food: looking after the bees needs
Good natural sources of pollen, nectar and water nearby over winter can make a huge difference to a colony’s health. Our beekeepers have become quite the field experts in knowing what flowers, trees or shrubs to look out for at certain times of the year. And our whole team works together to make sure all the needs of each hive are met, all year round. We do this so that come springtime we have nice strong, healthy hives to work with. It’s a nicer life for the bees, and healthy bees make top notch Mānuka honey.