An apiary on a soggy day is a place of frustration for a beekeeper. You can stand surrounded by hives and not see a single bee. The bees remain in retreat, and there is no beekeeping to be done.
We watch and wait still, continuing our weekly fondant check. Below you can see our three hives, in a row from the left. The tall, enormous hive is full of
bees and honey stores …equipment.
I touched the plastic wrapper of one of the fondant packets the bees are nibbling away inside and it was lovely and warm. They manage to keep it almost the temperature of a sauna inside there. I’d want to stay inside too.
The varroa monitoring boards have hardly any mites when I check. Perhaps this is the result of the winter oxalic acid treatment, or perhaps ants are eating them! Wax fragments and dropped pollen on the board confirm that comb building is going on, stores are being uncapped and pollen is being used to feed the brood. Things are going as well as can be hoped in this weather.
Other colonies have not been so lucky. This is one we found today. Only a tiny cluster remained.
It was sad to see the queen on top of the frames, surrounded by a few attendants. They would have protected her until the end.
Thomas took a few away to test for nosema, which he suspects may have been implicated in the death of another colony in the apiary.
Under one of our apiary tables I discovered this little nest. Had it contained chicks? Or, as Emma has suggested, is it an old nest blown down from the trees, or perhaps a new nest just started? It contained no mossy lining. I hope it was empty. Perhaps the resourceful apiary robins will be able to make use of it.
By the way I discovered these pretty embroidered bumble bee brooches today, made by a Scottish lady named Lisa Toppin.
Amazing attention to detail. Looks like a buff-tailed bumblebee? You can see a blog post on how she makes them here: More bumble bees and her Etsy shop, which she sells them from, is called Agnes and Cora.