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Winter

From November to February the bees will not normally require any attention beyond an occasional brief visit to the apiary to see if the hives have been disturbed in any way and to check that the entrances have not become blocked by dead bees falling from the cluster on to the floorboards behind the mouse guards. Once the bees have clustered tightly for the winter they will remain quiet, apart from making cleansing fights on suitably mild, sunny days, until they start to collect the first loads of fresh pollen and nectar from the early spring flowers. Feeders should be removed from the hives. Hive roofs should be inspected to make sure that they are proof against rain and mice and that the ventilation holes are not blocked. The ventilation of the hive should not be impeded by placing packing materials, which are quite unnecessary, inside the roof space above the crownboard or quilt. Water vapour is produced by the bees from the food they consume to provide the energy and cluster heat necessary for their survival. For good wintering adequate ventilation, rather than insulation against the cold, is needed to prevent condensation of this water vapour within the hive. A sound, dry hive and an ample supply of food in the combs are in themselves a sufficient protection against external temperature variations during the winter. Additional precautions against disturbance during the winter may be required for bees kept in out-apiaries. For example, fences to keep out farm animals should be strengthened when necessary. In some places woodpeckers frequently damage hives, which can be protected by draping fruit / fish-netting over them, or by placing a wire- netting barrier round each hive with the upper part bent over the roof to prevent the birds getting in from above