Honey bees winter survival

In winter when there is very little nectar around as there are no flowers, the honey bees eat the honey they have stored just for this purpose. Because they only need a small amount, there is normally enough honey free for beekeepers to harvest. And that is the honey we enjoy. A careful beekeeper, Paul Peacock writes in his book, Keeping Bees, beekeepers “will not take more than the colony can easily afford to miss”. Understanding this delicate balance, a beekeeper takes the honey filled combs from the hive, removing the honey by first taking off the wax cap with a sharp knife, or using a machine, and then by placing the hives in a centrifuge to extract the honey. Many beekeepers reuse the comb in hives, instead of melting the wax for candles. In serious drought times, as we have just experienced in South Africa, there is a much lower production of honey, and in fact, a lot of bees need to be fed substitute nectar (sugars) to survive the tough climate condition. While beekeepers actively try to avoid feeding sugar, if there is little for them to feed on, this ensures that the bees won’t starve.