Signs of hope

So far this winter has been mild but wet and windy. There has been flooding in several parts of the country, with huge waves breaking over the coast. No snow yet. Today brought sunshine, blue sky and fluffy white clouds.

The apiary was peaceful. It felt good to walk amongst the hives, looking in at entrances and being amongst the quiet of the bees. And from the ground, tips emerging – shoots of hope. Snowdrops and crocuses are on their way.

Snowdrop shoots

Snowdrop shoots

Crocus leaves

Looking back at my blog, last year the crocuses showed off their orange pollen in mid February and we had snow the week of 10th February. I expect we will have some snow to come.

I noticed something unusual – small wasps investigating entrances. I checked inside our hives to make sure they haven’t eaten their fondant yet and found a couple of drowsy little wasps amongst the insulation. Not the big queen wasps which I’ve found hibernating over winter before, but wee ones. Has anyone else found little wasps in their hives?

This nucleus had dead bees at the bottom and felt very light. I suspect the colony may have been dead for some time, but I didn’t have my hive tool with me so I didn’t try to open it up. These bees look more yellow than black to me; it always seems that the yellow type Italian bees imported from New Zealand do not overwinter so well. Tom Bickerdike has written about this a bit in his latest blog post on making his own oxalic acid solution.

Dead nucleus bees

Below, beautiful sunlight falling on our hives.


For those of us who celebrate Christmas in England, January can be a bleak time. The feasts and presents of Christmas have passed, leaving our bank balances dented and our bellies swelled. Added to this, January is often the coldest month of the year. But us beekeepers have something to look forward to – every day of the winter that passes brings us closer to being able to spend time with our bees again.

Hope those snowdrops show their petals soon!

Apiary winter 2013/14

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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32 Responses to Signs of hope

  1. beenurse says:

    Thank you Emily, for this beautiful, hopeful post. The picture with the low sun though the trees is stunning.


  2. It has been an unusually mild winter. The buds have actually broken on a few of the garden plants. I am already anxious for flowers and bees actively managing our world.


  3. Wishing you an early Spring.


  4. cindy knoke says:

    Beautiful post & photos Emily. Kudos~


  5. Your bulbs are way ahead of ours Emily! We don’t usually see that kind of growth till February. Your light through the trees photo is late winter perfection! I checked most of my bees today and found 11 out of 12 flying! It was warm, about 11 degrees C, but overcast. I fed every hive I had a sugar brick for and will make more for everyone else tonight! Keeping the home fires burning…


  6. We are having a mild wet January too but I still look wistfully at the bulbs coming through and think of spring and the bees.


  7. solarbeez says:

    A beautiful photograph of sunlight filtering through the trees. It still looks cold to me, but I can imagine the bees starting to feel some short moments of warmth.
    Your Snowdrops look thick and strong. You might have to pull out your macro (if you have one) and get some good shots of bees pollinating them. You will beat me to it because my snowdrops (except for one brave plant) are not even showing yet.


  8. Grower says:

    Love the pictures of your apiary! I’m envious of the green shoots. Definitely ready for spring here, typing as it snows again.


  9. Snow drops and crocuses already!?! you are way ahead of us here 🙂


  10. thomas73640 says:

    A real shame about the nuc Emily and I will be keeping my fingers crossed that it’s the only one, especially as my hive is not looking too great. Interesting also that you spotted the small wasps as I have seen them sniffing around and very late for them, perhaps down to the mild winter so far.


    • Emily Heath says:

      I’m not sure what was going on with the nuc, as it still had an Apiguard container under the roof. Perhaps the bees died off before it was time to put fondant on – not sure who was looking after it? It’s the one next to David’s hive. It’s annoying seeing those wasps about when the bees are trying to cluster in peace.


  11. P&B says:

    Look at all those shoots! We still have a long way to go on this side of the Atlantic but we have hope. Our Italian bees survived -6F (windchill-15F) and I hope they will not starve to death before we can feed them again when it’s warm enough to open the hives.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Happy for you that your bees are doing well 🙂 If you heft the hive and it feels light, I would feed as a lack of food is more likely to kill them than opening up the hives while it’s cold.


  12. Pingback: Bees Welcome the Mid-January Warm Weather | Adventures in Natural Beekeeping

  13. cecilia says:

    Too cold to look in my hive yet but I need to put in their candy boards soon.. I fed them right to the freeze and they have walls of insulation around and on top of them (with air spaces) so i am hoping for the best. Your ground looks so lively for the middle of winter, lots of lovely plants coming up c


  14. Beautiful! We are going to begin our beekeeping adventure this year! I am very excited.


  15. Yes, came back from the States to find the garden covered in snow drops. Bees are a little less active on these warm days than we’d like opened up quickly to check stores. They were there moving about. Maybe they are bit suspicious of warmth!


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