Exclusive Advice with Beekeeper Kasper

February is a quiet month, similar to January, except there are often a few sunny and warm days that allow bees to fly out of the hives. At this point, hives start to slowly grow in number, as spring is only around the corner.

On warmer days this month, I will go around the apiary and gently lift the cover boards using a little bit of cool smoke. I’ll have a quick look at the wintering colonies to make sure they are not short of food stores. Hives that already have been given ambrosia feed paste have probably eaten it by now, so I will add some more to make sure they don’t run out. I wouldn’t advise you to pull any frames apart this time of year, but a quick look from the top will not hurt your bees. After lifting the cover boards the bees should be in a cluster and should stay nice and calm buzzing gently, this lets us know the wintering colony is all safe and sound.

If after lifting the cover board the bees seem very nervous, flying out looking very angry, it could be a sign that something might be wrong. The colony could be short of food which we can easily replenish by placing ambrosia feed paste over the cover board or straight on the top bars making sure the bees can easily get to it. Please remember bees will not walk far to get feed paste if the weather outside is below 8°C, so it is very important to place the paste right next to the wintering cluster of bees.

While I am lifting roofs and cover boards to check the stores in the hives, I will keep looking for any signs of dampness in the hives. Damp parts of hives and mould in the hives make it harder for bees to keep warm. Any wet hive parts should be changed for clean dry ones. Often it could be a leaky roof or not enough ventilation in the hive.

As soon as the weather warms up and bees are able to gather some fresh pollen and nectar from spring-flowering plants, the queen will rapidly start laying more and more eggs and the colony will start growing. By the end of February when the colonies start to grow quicker, it would be a good

idea to start boosting your hives with pollen, I recommend Candipolline Gold as it includes natural pollens. Artificial pollen supplements cannot 100% replace fresh and natural flower pollen, but they are definitely helpful in times when bees might not be able to forage for it every day and the demand for proteins in the colony is rising.

There is still a time to make up frames and wax them before the hives get busy in the spring and we won’t have as much spare time. I am aiming to have enough frames with foundation made up by the end of February to see me through a season. Do not worry if you think you have got too many! Frames with foundation can be stored for months and used next season. It is better to have more than not enough and rush around in the season.

Follow along with our YouTube tutorial to learn how to easily assemble your frames.

10% OFF National Poly Hives – only 5 days left!

Our polystyrene beehive offers excellent thermal qualities, helping to keep hive temperate more constant, shielding bees from the worst of the heat in summer meaning bees spend less time cooling the hive and more time foraging. Keeping it warmer during the winter months results in the need for less food to see the colony safely through the Winter. Colonies build up to 2-3 weeks earlier and will also start flying earlier in the day, thus increasing the honey crop!

There’s only 5 days left oto enjoy 10% OFF our Complete Polystyrene National Hive. Choose between assembled or flat pack frames and foundation. Shop here.

February Honey Recipe by Gill Meller: Seared Venison with Anise, Rhubarb & Honey

Looking for a dish to enjoy on a winter’s day? Gill Meller shares another delicious recipe;

I remember being told the best thing to do with an old mutton carcass was to ‘slow-cook the whole thing’. I was younger and less experienced, but we had hung that thing for four weeks. The meat was dark and dry and carried a good-looking, firm, white fat. I kind of hoped the loins would be tender enough to serve pink. So, ignoring the slow-cooking advice and without really knowing how things would turn out, I cooked the loins hot and fast, with coarse salt, olive oil and the verve of youth. The meat was sensational – as tender as you could wish for.

Fried mutton loin with shaved cauliflower, preserved lemon & smoked paprika

Author: Gill Meller


  • 1 small, firm cauliflower
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted
  • 2 or 3 mint sprigs, leaves picked and shredded
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
  • 2–3 teaspoons sunflower seeds
  • 1 large or 2 small white onions, thinly sliced
  • 250g (9oz) mutton loin, trimmed
  • 1 garlic clove, bashed
  • skin of 1 small preserved lemon, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • 1½ teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
  • 6–8 sprigs fennel tops, torn
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Cut away the outer leaves from the cauliflower, then trim back and remove the central stem, dividing the cauliflower into large florets as you do so. Thinly slice the florets about 2–3mm (1⁄16–⅛in) thick and place them in a large bowl. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, pour over the lemon juice and scatter over the cumin seeds and mint leaves, then season well with salt and pepper. Use your hands to tumble everything together gently and set aside.
  • Set a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a dash of olive oil, followed by the pumpkin and sunflower seeds and a scattering of salt. Toast the seeds for 3–4 minutes, then remove them from the pan and set aside. Return the pan to the heat, add a further 2 tablespoons of olive oil and when the oil is hot, add the sliced onion. Season, then cook, stirring regularly, until the onion is soft and beginning to crisp around the edges (about 10–12 minutes). Remove the onions to a plate and keep warm. Return the pan to a high heat. Add the mutton loin and garlic to the pan. Season all over with salt and pepper. Cook for 5–7 minutes, turning regularly, until they’ve taken on some golden colour, then remove from the heat and allow to rest for 5–10 minutes in a warm place.
  • Scatter the cauliflower over four large plates or a serving platter. Slice the mutton into 1–2cm (½–¾in) slices and lay it over the top of the cauli. Scatter over the onions and the toasted seeds along with the preserved lemon skin. Drizzle with the honey, and dust with smoked paprika. Finish with a tangle of torn fennel tops, a lick more olive oil and some salt and ground black pepper.

Order Gill’s Gather cookbook for more recipes or follow @gill.meller on Instagram.

Photography: Andrew Montgomery


Header image: Nicky Tomblin – ‘Perfect pollinator’