You may at this stage not want to hear about, see or smell another crumb of Christmas cake but did you know that Christmas cake with its layer of almond icing and sweet fondant topping does not conjure up cosy notions for beekeepers. In fact, I’m feeling guilty now for eating the almond icing on the Christmas Cake! But more about that shortly, first more about fondant.
Fondant is fed to bees during the colder months if the bees do not have enough food supplies of their own or are at risk of running out and is usually given only as a top-up as a precaution against starvation. This fondant is not exactly the same as cake fondant as there may be additives in cake fondant that may be harmful for bees. You can make your own or buy it from a bee supplier (which I do). A VERY experienced Kerry Beekeeper was in touch with me just after Christmas, following pleasantries and the exchange of stories about beekeeping high-jinks came the informal lesson of the day. Of course I felt foolish when he told me that I should have had put fondant on my hives by now. I have been waiting for a cold snap but I was wrong to wait. You can be sure that the next day I donned my wellies and put this simple feed on each hive. The bees might not need it, in fact the hives felt a reasonable weight when I hefted* them but who am I to contradict experience. The weather being so mild has encouraged bees to fly out and waste their precious resources so hunger could easily follow during the winter dearth. Given that I had to briefly expose the bees in the hives to the elements most of the them were blasé about my lifting up their roof and plonking (oh so gently) a slab of fondant on the frames. However, the mild weather meant that some of the bees from my crankiest hive came up and said hello to me. Just as well I always wear my PPE.
Almonds… well that is a definitely another story. Did you know that California’s fertile Central Valley, is home to 80% of the world’s almond supply?
And guess who is the primary pollinator for almonds? Right first time…the honey bee.
This article from the Guardian today is an interesting read ‘Like sending bees to war’: the deadly truth behind your almond-milk obsession
By the way…hefting is almost an art form. It is the lifting up of the back of the bee hive to gauge the weight of stores that the bee have left to determine whether the colony has sufficient stores for the remaining winter. See The Apiarist.org Weighty Matters for more on hefting hives.