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It's nearly spring!

2024 Cliffe Castle Bee Blog #1

As the days get longer, the birdsong louder and the sun feels ever warmer when it escapes the clouds, our Cliffe Castle bees are becoming more active in their hive. At our Airedale Association Apiary they have survived the winter and will soon be ready to return to their summer home at the Museum - as near to the school Easter holidays as the weather allows.

Here’s a quick of their progress this year so far:

  • 3 January The bees had almost polished off the block of fondant* we gave them in November and needed more.

  • 27 January Still a little fondant left - they were active and eating it when we peeped into the hive.

  • 23 February Greedy gannets - the bees need more fondant! Plenty of bees observed and doing well as seen.

  • 19 February Mike and I cleaned the Observation Hive in preparation for the bees’ return. This involved scraping all the bits of wax and propolis* off the walls and glass panes; scorching the inner wood with a blow torch and then scrubbing everything down with a washing soda solution.

I have brought the bees' polystyrene travelling box home to clean, this too will be carefully scraped before being soaked in a strong solution of bleach and washing soda crystals then thoroughly rinsed with cold water and left to dry, so it is clean for the bees to have a safe journey back to their summer quarters.

*Propolis is a sticky resin that bees collect from buds and sap from trees and shrubs. It is used to seal any small gaps in the walls of their nest to prevent cold air from reducing the temperature of their nursery, where eggs and young larvae are kept warm to produce more bees. Propolis also has antiseptic properties, so the bees also use it to make sure the nest is clean and hygienic.

*Fondant is a semi-solid sugar and water feed that beekeepers use in winter and spring as a supplementary food. It does not go mouldy, as a liquid feed can over time, and the bees can easily digest it. We place it in the hive on top of the frames so that the bees easily reach it easily and the warmth of the colony prevents it from drying out.


For 2024, the Cliffe Castle Observation Hive Team members are: Steve, Mike, Lee, Anthony and Linda. Watch out for more news from us as our beekeeping year progresses!

Mike busy scrubbing the Obs hive. Credit: L.Schofield


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