Visited my bees for the first time since mid-December to wish them Happy New Year. To my surprise, they popped their heads out of the hive to see me (or, more likely, to poo) and were flying all over the place. It’s got milder over the past week, but still wasn’t that warm today – maybe about 13°C?
Here’s a couple of them hobnobbing together:
Just after taking this photo one landed on my bare hand. Not wanting to get stung, I carefully lifted her up to the roof and luckily she walked off my hand. I took the roof off to peek inside and was happy to see loads of bees under the crownboard nibbling away at their fondant, which they ignored for ages when I first gave it to them. Such a relief to see they survived the snow last month, in what was the coldest December documented since nationwide records began 100 years ago, with an average temperature of -1C. Despite the cold, it may be that the weather actually suited those bees in colonies large enough to keep warm. Beekeepers always say wet is worse than cold – dampness can cause stored pollen to go mouldy – and December was also an unusually sunny and dry month.
My bees haven’t got through the winter yet. Brood rearing starts in early spring, initiated by increasing day length. More losses from starvation occur when rearing begins than during the depths of winter. One of my fellow beekeepers opened their hive today to find all the bees dead on the comb. Felt really bad for him and just hope it doesn’t happen to my little bees.