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Can bees survive the winter on rape honey?

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New Bee

Joined: 01 Sep 2017
Posts: 3
Location: South Staffordshire, United Kingdom

PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 8:13 pm    Post subject: Can bees survive the winter on rape honey? Reply with quote


I've recently taken over the care of 6 colonies in Langstroth hives with a job. They still have supers on them that were put on earlier in the year. A very friendly and helpful local beekeeper (a former bee inspector, in fact) came to have a look at them yesterday. They are mostly in good health except one colony is short on stores and I am about to feed them. Regarding the other colonies, the beekeeper said that it will be better for them if I take the supers off and feed them the 'bee ambrosia' (I believe that this is a type of inverted sugar syrup) because they would struggle to take the solidified rape honey over the winter. I would much rather leave a super on for them over the winter instead of feeding them but I want to do what is best for them. Is it correct that they will struggle with the rape honey over the winter and that I should take it off? Feeding them syrup instead of leaving them honey is counter-intuitive to me but I can see that this might be a special case because they will have made the rape honey early in the year and then perhaps not had room to take much other stuff as most of the hives have only one super on them. I realise that I have to act fast if I'm feeding them so I'd be grateful for quick responses! Thank you.
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Golden Bee

Joined: 31 May 2010
Posts: 1551
Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2017 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't see why they shouldn't survive on Rape Seed Honey. Mine often over winter on Ivy which sets much harder. I haven't fed mine for about 5 years now and I have had the odd loss due to new queen not mating after swarming but no over winter losses for several years.

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Site Admin

Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1857
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2017 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you have 5 colonies, with plenty of stores why not experiment. Leave 2 or 3 with their honey and harvest the others and feed.

I don't have experience of rape honey but my bees do make quite a bit of ivy honey which, as Dave says, sets pretty hard, pretty quick. My bees main winter stores consist of Balsam honey though which is very good.
There are conventional beekeepers that say that ivy honey is bad for the bees but I have not found that, providing it is not the sole source of their winter stores. I think perhaps beekeepers have had problems when they have harvested their honey in late summer/early autumn and then all the bees were left to over winter on was whatever ivy honey they could make perhaps plus some fondant. They need plenty of water to dissolve honey that sets hard and in the middle of winter if the weather is really cold for long periods, that can be a problem because they cannot leave the hive to forage for it and most water is frozen anyway, whereas if they have a mixture of honeys, they can live off the less solid ones until the weather improves and they can get out to collect water.

Hopefully that makes some sense and enables you to make an informed decision on your best approach to your situation.


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Quality Top Bar Hives by Andrew Vidler

Conserving wild bees

Research suggests that bumble bee boxes have a very low success rate in actually attracting bees into them. We find that if you create an environment where first of all you can attract mice inside, such as a pile of stones, a drystone wall, paving slabs with intentionally made cavities underneath, this will increase the success rate.

Most bumble bee species need a dry space about the size a football, with a narrow entrance tunnel approximately 2cm in diameter and 20 cm long. Most species nest underground along the base of a linear feature such as a hedge or wall. Sites need to be sheltered and out of direct sunlight.

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Information about the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum)

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