You might think I’m crazy talking about winter. We’ve just had some of our hottest days of the year, when parts of England reached over 35°C. Yet the summer solstice was a summer bee’s lifetime ago. The bees are always looking ahead, thinking of the long dark days to come, so we should too.
Both my colonies are doing well. The swarm has not yet filled out the brood box – about three frames remain to be drawn out. They are lovely, gentle bees that I feel a special connection with.
My newer hive, purchased from a local beekeeper, is absolutely booming, every cell in the brood box heavy with brood, pollen or honey. The bees were originally on Langstroth frames – but I keep National hives – so with the help of some clever conversion equipment the queen was moved onto National frames and then the old Langstroth frames removed once the brood had hatched out. I was relieved once the process was complete as I find the Langstroth frames very awkward to hold, with their larger, heavier size and teeny weeny little lugs!
I was planning to press ahead with Apiguard (a thymol based varroa treatment) last weekend, but then realised I didn’t have ekes ready. I got a couple more delivered this week. By getting varroa levels down now, the colony will have a better chance to produce healthy bees going into autumn. Apiguard’s manufacturers say it is most effective at outside temperatures of at least 15ºC (see Apiguard guidance), so now is a good time to do it before Cornwall returns to its usual mellow dampness. The autumn bees must keep the colony going through everything the winter can throw at us, huddling round the queen, waiting for the first hopeful days of spring.
There are lots of bee-themed events coming up soon in Cornwall. One is going on this weekend – a Bee Fayre at Enys Gardens – lots of short talks about bees, including getting young people into bee farming, beekeeping in the Scottish borders, an insect hotel workshop and a bumblebee safari. Hoping I can get to some!