Waiting for spring

Two storms have wailed past the bee hives. And still the Cornish winter continues, a rarely relenting fall of rain and hail, accompanied by a bitter wind.

I don’t know how the bees feel about it, but I am certainly finding it hard to keep my spirits up. I see them flying still, collecting pollen from the few flowers out there. Somehow they keep going.

I check on them every week or so, making sure their entrance holes are not clogged up with dead bees. I remove the hive roofs, peel back the insulation and quickly put fondant in before the bees discover my intrusion. If I am too slow, too curious, they come for me in anger.

Will they survive this winter? I have done things differently this year, distracted by the arrival of our own queen bee. I did not feed syrup in the autumn as I usually do, leaving each hive a super of honey instead. And though I had an anti-varroa Api-Bioxal treatment ready, Holly arrived a week early and I didn’t manage to trickle it.

The colony in our chimney survives of course, defying the usual expectation that bees untreated for varroa will die out. If I poke my head out of the attic in a rare dry moment, I see the workers returning to their crack.

There are signs of spring of course, some earlier than ever: frog spawn in January, daffodils in December. Our camellia tree has begun presenting its enormous pink blooms to the sky.  Before I know it, just as the winter seems to have lasted forever, I’ll be collecting swarms from trees.

Bombus hypnorum

Bombus hypnorum, spotted in February

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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11 Responses to Waiting for spring

  1. jen3972 says:

    Haven’t the storms been awful 😦 it’ll be interesting to see how colonies respond when spring finally arrives. How long have you had chimney bees? 🙂


  2. It’s the same here so I can sympathise, but at least we dont have flooding. Every time the sun shines, which is not so often, I get twitchy wanting to get out and look at flowers etc. Hope your bees make it through.


  3. This was a timely reminder for me to check entrances and fondant and I had a dry day to do it-Thank you! I’m right on the limit here for keeping bees at 350m asl on Dartmoor. They have had a tough winter so far – (as a comparison sheep and ponies are being stripped of their flesh in this weather) – but i combined a couple of hives last year and they all seem to be doing well and buds and flowers are emerging. We’ve lots of Crossbills in the spruce nearby and its staggering to think they’ve been trying to do their early nesting over the past month. The next month will be critical for all these folk…


  4. hencorner says:

    And then as I read this, it’s snowing in London!!!


  5. I think the bees are hardier than we think for problems of cold and wind. Your hives look sheltered, you have chosen the cosiest spot possible, I think. Amelia


  6. disperser says:

    I saw the warning for high winds and lots of rain. Stay safe (and your bees).


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