My work involves a lot of sitting in front of a computer, updating web pages and answering enquiries. I like my job but I miss the sun, as our office only has tiny windows which let little light in. On my lunch break – and I am lucky as I get a full hour long lunch break – I step outside and blink gratefully when the sky is bright. I take long strides around the city, exercising my legs and entertaining my eyes by looking at St Paul’s cathedral, at the Thames, squirrels, pigeons and all the old Roman walls near my work.
Weekends are nice because I can spend more time outside, whether with the bees in the summer or staring wistfully at the hive entrances in the winter. Today was a perfect autumn day and quite a few of us turned up to drink tea and eat some Icelandic choccies Emma had kindly left behind for us. Some excellent hats were on display. Don brought his Alsatian Annie, who gets shy and barks at new people but is actually a sweetie when you stroke her.
Emma also gave me this honey and pretty snow globe. The honey was a very special present from Hjalmar Jonsson, an Icelandic beekeeper who may be visiting the Ealing apiary in the spring. When he heard Emma was coming to Iceland for a few days he kindly invited her to visit his hives. You can read about Emma’s visit and see some stunning photos on her blog post Beekeeping in Iceland. The honey smells delicious.
Tom has very generously given Emma and I some home-made insulated dummy boards to go with the insulated roofs he made us. He helped me put the dummy boards into Chilli’s small hive, as we had some empty frames of foundation at the end that were doing nothing to help keep the warmth in. Our hives now have fondant on over the crown board, topped by insulation and insulated roofs. We want to tuck our bees in warm this winter. Brian reported that a woodpecker had a go at one of his top-bar hives, so chicken wire is something to sort out next week.
Earlier Drew had helped me check out the Hanwell bees. Outside the church gate we were greeted by a man dressed as Elvis and what looked like a human poo on the ground. A peculiar combination. Beyond the gate I realised I had forgotten my bee suit, which was a little annoying as I wanted to put a mouse guard across the entrance.
I proceeded towards our hive and gingerly fixed the mouse guard on, putting the drawing pins in gently as bees don’t generally like anything interfering with their entrance. I stood back and Drew said “Is the entrance meant to be covered?”. I had somehow managed to put the thick part of the mouse guard across the entrance and already bees were buzzing around trying to get in. As I fixed its positioning one landed on my hand, but luckily she was just looking for somewhere to land and not out to get me.
What must it feel like to spend a few months huddling around your queen? Perhaps the winter bees have it easy, feeding on the fragrant honey their summer sisters collected. But I dislike being cold, so I think I’d rather be a busy summer bee. Dale Gibson has done a good post on his Apis blog explaining what the bees get up to: Hivernation.
How are your winter preparations coming along, either for the bees or for yourselves?