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.