Snowy days, snowy bees

We have in Ealing what I’m sure Phillip and his bees over at the Mud Songs blog in Newfoundland, Canada would think of as a light dusting of snow, a mere icing sugar like sprinkling. Personally I am enjoying it. London in winter can be a grey place; the snow covers up all the dirt with sparkling light.

But how are the bees doing? I went down to the apiary today to find out. Someone had got there before me…a male beekeeper, by the looks of it, possibly in wellies. I left slightly more delicate tracks behind.

Tell-tale signs of a beekeeper

The apiary lay still. Of all the hives in this picture, only two (which are mine and Emma’s) still contain bees.

The snowdrops are snowed in.

The crocuses are wilting. They came too early.

With a dusting of snow on the ground, I assumed our ladies would not be flying. How wrong I was. Rosemary’s underlings poked their heads out of the entrance and seemed to be feeling out the temperature. A minute later a worker landed on a patch of snow on our hive roof and started buzzing frantically. I picked her up using a leaf but she either fell or flew off, I’m not sure which, before I could blow hot air on her.

The bees have been well insulated with the generous help of the elder beekeepers, particularly Pat, who provided some industrial style bubblewrap and polystyrene, and Thomas, who helped Emma tuck the bees in. They have also been supplied with pre-addressed envelopes in case they want to send us letters.


The last thing I did before leaving was feed the robins on behalf of Don. Don is a kind-hearted Australian beekeeper who always feeds the apiary’s robins every Saturday. But he is in Australia for six weeks now, so the robins will be missing him. I hope they enjoy their seeds.

. 098574 – this is a comment left for you by my cat Bob, who is into typing numbers.

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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18 Responses to Snowy days, snowy bees

  1. I love English bees in wintertime!


  2. Reblogged this on Romancing the Bee and commented:
    More English bees in winter!


  3. Emily Heath says:

    Thanks Deborah! I love my English bees too!


  4. mike mack says:

    Good to hear your bees are still flying.
    Any idea what cause the demise of the other hives in the yard?
    May your back be strong and your honey supers full in 2012.


    • Emily says:

      Thanks Mike. Most of the hives have been empty for some time. A couple died over winter. Their owners think varroa caused their populations to dwindle and the colonies became too small to keep warm enough.


  5. What do you do to reduce drifting, as your hives are in a row?


    • Emily says:

      Hi Chris. I’m not in charge of the apiary layout at all, that’s up to the elder beekeepers at the association. At the moment that long line of hives on the right only has two live colonies spaced far apart, so drifting shouldn’t be too much of a problem. If more colonies are put in we could look into painting them different colours.


  6. ceciliag says:

    I never thought of putting insulation on top of the bees/.. good idea, I am a little concerned about little particles of comb accumulating under one of my hives, though the bees seem to be busy, they pop up if the day is warm, i need to look it up, It is too cold to investigate, i would kill the hive if i dismantled them in this weather so that i can look.. we will have to wait and see. c


  7. I agree, Bob is very clever. Our Smokey typically sits on my desk or lap and dictates what to include in the post. I just wanted to say hello and that I particularly enjoy your snowy flower shots. 🙂 The bees are lovely also, of course.


  8. Linnea Schwarz says:

    HI Emily,
    I so much enjoy your post, as does my mother. The photography is great. That is a really great idea with the self-addressed envelopes under the outer covers. We named one of our queens Elizabeth Jane after The Mayor of Casterbridge and that infamous quote, “she is Elizabeth Jane she is just not your Elizabeth Jane.” We thought that was a good name for an italian honeybee queen. Thank-you again for the wonderful post.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Hi Linnea,
      What a pretty name you have. Thanks for letting me know about your queen Elizabeth Jane. I read the Mayor of Casterbridge at school and found it quite heavy going, but I would probably enjoy it more now. Long live Elizabeth Jane. Our queens are all named after essential oils as my hive partner Emma is a trained aromatherapist, perhaps more of yours could be named after Thomas Hardy heroines…Bathsheba, Tess and Ethelberta seem like good names for queens.


  9. Love your blog! My husband does most of the bee work around here. I take pictures, make snide remarks, and eat honey. But we love having bees!


  10. One of my fellow beekeepers extols carpet samples to keep hives warm and then he uses them between each super when he is storing the supers over winter because he says this reduces wax moth problems. I worry slightly about polythene type insulation remembering a nugget I was told ‘bees rarely die from cold it is damp that kills them’.
    Nice blog. I am in my 3rd year.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Hello Tricia,

      I am excited to have found your blog, it looks great. Whereabouts are you based?

      The carpet samples idea is interesting. I think the polythene type insulation should stay dry, it has felt dry on the occasions I’ve checked in on the roof. Beekeepers with those new polythene hives seem to find their bees overwinter well.


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