I don't normally blog about the bees I look after at work, although I probably should as they are also under my beekeeper wing as it were but having struggled to keep this colony going through last year and expecting the worst after the long drawn-out winter months and cold snap, I genuinely couldn't believe what awaited me today on the very first inspection of the year. And this is what I saw - a beautiful new queen that superseded the old queen last Autumn heading a very strong and health colony of honey bees.
With the temperature in double figures today and the sun shining, the long-awaited first spring inspection of my three colonies happened today. There's a whole raft of emotions I found myself feeling as it's been about 7 months since closing them up for the long-drawn out winter months. I felt excited to be getting back to my beekeeping and opening up the hives, but at the same time feeling anxious as to what state the colonies would be in after the endless months of cold weather.
With the Met Office having issued a snow warning for parts of the south-west and the high grounds of Devon, it's a worrying time as the long cold snap continues preventing the bees from breaking out of their winter cluster to head out to forage. They have had so little flying days this year and here we are with April knocking on the door in a couple of days.
With Easter only a couple of weeks away, it's hard to believe that it's been snowing most of today here in this part of Devon. The temperature outside is still in single figures with a wind chill of -5oC today and the 14 day weather forecast offers no sign of warmer weather. With the long drawn out wintry weather, there's a need to feed our colonies of honey bees, or at least monitor them weekly to check they have adequate stores.
With the majority of the country laying under a blanket of snow, it was inevitable that the beast from the east would finally reach us in Devon with Storm Emma due to arrive later from the west. With the weather conditions as they are, the car keys were left hanging up and the woolly hat and gloves donned for a trudge in the snow over to the apiary to check the hives.
Once a week during the winter months I like to take a walk to the apiary to check all is well. Having prepared my three colonies for winter, even though beekeepers are no longer opening up their hives, we still need to check that the entrances are clear and no damage to any of the hives. We've had our fair share of rain and strong winds lately, so it a pleasure to stroll out this morning with the sun shining to check on the bees.
Last year I decided that to have a better understanding of my honey bees, it would be useful to sit the British Beekeepers' Association exams and undertook a correspondence course with two of my beekeeper friends in preparation of taking Module 1: Honey Bee Management later in the year. Cathy and Imogen have been keeping bees longer than me, so I had a steeper learning curve having only two beekeeping seasons under my belt. So how did it go?
It's been a long day and it's now time to put my feet up this evening knowing that I've changed some minds! Yes, I managed to change the minds of four people who were adamant they didn't like honey. Having a taster pot to try of honey that's made right on your doorstep was a massive mind changer for them. Not only did they taste, but they also bought honey for themselves and as Christmas presents for their friends.