Before closing my hives for the winter, I reflect on the thousands of years that bees have produced the same wax comb, honey, propolis and royal jelly! All with the expertise of the chemist, architect, engineer and geometrician, the bees work tirelessly over the summer to produce enough honey to stay alive throughout the winter months. Therefore, it is essential, as a beekeeper, to leave enough honey for them to survive.
During the winter months, when the temperature outside the hives falls to 14 degrees, the bees move closer together, and below 9 degrees, they eventually form a cluster around the queen. As the weather gets colder this cluster tightens as the bees fight to lose as little heat as possible. The bees move from the centre to the outside to feed and rotate accordingly.
The beekeeper’s job through the winter months is to make sure that the bees are disease free and have enough food and warmth to survive. To insulate the hives, I like to use straw as an extra layer of warmth, however you can use anything as long as it keeps the chill off. It is also important that your hive remains waterproof and stable. I keep my hives in a walled garden which keeps them well insulated and safe from livestock or any other animal which could knock them over.
One problem for bees over winter is that they like to keep their hive as clean as possible. They will not foul their nest and so instead go out of the hive on cleansing flights to relieve themselves. This means that the worker bees have to leave the cluster and then rush back to keep warm. This is known as thermoregulation – a process where the bees eat some honey and then use this energy to activate their flight muscles. They then shiver these muscles which raises their body temperatures significantly, revving their mini engines to keep them warm and their neighbours too.
To keep you warm, I would suggest treating yourself to a Beeble Hot Toddy! With a delicious combination of honey and alcohol, this winter tipple is also know to promote a deep sleep!
Hot Toddy Recipe
Prep Time: 7 mins
Total time: 7 mins
Serving size: 1
- 50ml Beeble Honey Whisky
- 150ml boiling water
- 1-2 tsps honey
- Juice of half a lemon, squeezed
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves (slightly ground using a pestle and mortar)
- Fill a heat-proof glass with boiling water and let it stand for 1-2 mins to warm
- Empty mug and half-fill with the 150ml of fresh boiling water
- Add the honey and stir until dissolved
- Add all other ingredients to glass and stir
- Garnish with a slice of lemon and a cinnamon stick
Beeble’s Top Tip: If you have the time, gently heat the whisky, honey, lemon juice and spices before adding the hot water to ensure the drink is piping hot to serve!
Find out more about the history of the Hot Toddy cocktail here!
Written by Nicola