England is basking in record breaking temperatures for October – Gravesend in Kent set the record at 29.9C. Usually October is winter coat time. You might be getting the gloves and scarf back out of your drawers. Instead everyone is walking around in shorts and flip-flops.
Lovely for us humans, but any good for the bees? Betty, one of the Ealing beekeepers who gets incredible amounts of honey and just won five awards for it at a local show, told me she thinks it will confuse them. They’ll be out tiring themselves out trying to find forage and ivy will be what they find. Ivy granulates very hard so isn’t great for winter stores. Ted Hooper’s Guide to Bees and Honey says: “When the weather is favourable the honeybee works ivy with considerable avidity…Problems have been caused by this as the white honey very rapidly granulates and has been known to dry out so that the bee was unable to use it during the winter. There have also been cases of bees being found with the honey granulated in their honey stomachs, but whether this is cause or effect of death is not known for certain. Pollen loads are yellow-orange.”
The bees were certainly busy when we looked in on them. You can see some stores in the photo below of Rosemary’s hive along with Emma’s stylish pink gloves.
And some more beautiful stores in Lavender’s hive below. You can just see above Emma’s hand a discussion is going on in the background between Andy and Peter.
The discussion got a bit heated, because Peter had decided to start cutting some trees down. He is the apiary’s unofficial gardener, and does a great job growing gorgeous tulips in the spring. However, he is somewhat stubborn and strong willed when it comes to doing things his way. The trouble was, the tree he was sawing through was on course to land on David’s hive, which is the mardiest, moodiest hive in the apiary. I got stung under the eyes by one of his bees a few month ago – they do not mess about.
As you can see from the photo below, one of the branches did land on the hive. Followed a shortly by another which actually knocked half the hive’s boxes off. All the people in the photo below not wearing beesuits very sensibly ran away! Emma and I were suited up so grabbed our smoker and went to the rescue of the bees.
Under the circumstances they could have been a lot nastier with us. I was sockless under my bee suit but did not get stung. Luckily only the supers were knocked off, not the brood boxes, so it was not complete chaos. But lots of squashed bees and upside down frames. We carefully put everything back together. The roof was old and had been damaged so we borrowed one from an empty hive and peace was restored.
Despite the tree incident, another enjoyable afternoon’s beekeeping. Bees, cake, tea, sunshine and bagpipes serenading us in the background – what more could you ask for?