Finishing work on a Friday normally signals the start of the weekend but this Friday was different - I had a colony of bees to go and collect. Not for myself but for The Donkey Sanctuary where I work which I mentioned in What's all the buzz about? back in January this year. I already have bees at the bottom of the garden and now I have a great opportunity to resurrect a pair of beehives at The Donkey Sanctuary after the bee colony collapsed a couple of years ago.
The month of June so far hasn't been too kind to my bees as we've had more than our fair share of rain here in Devon. In fact, we've had torrential rain which means the girls can't get out to forage for their food and no doubt relying on the stores they've gathered over the months... as the saying goes "saved for a rainy day"!
Looking out the window in the mornings before I go to work, there are a few brave little bees at the hive entrance and as soon as the rain stops the girls are flying off on their mission to gather pollen, nectar and water to replenish their stores.
This weekend I've been busy in the garden but not too busy to finally get round to adding a splash of colour to the second beehive (aka 59b) waiting in the wings should Lizzie decide her present abode in the first beehive (aka 59a) is not up to scratch. We are nearing the end of of what's known as the swarming season and from recent inspections, I'm pretty hopeful that Lizzie and her family are content with their beehive home at the bottom of the garden.
Having got back from Strasbourg, one of the first things I did was put my beesuit on and head out into the garden to see what the girls have been up to for the week. The first thing I noticed was how heavy the super was just lifting it up to put to one side. What a difference a week can make - there was a mixture of stores glistening in the sunlight and capped stores - honey!
Strasbourg, what a wonderful city made even more wonderful by its caring citizens who embrace and support the environmental plans in place to help protect our planet. Even the insects in the city are supported and cared for with an array of different species of plants friendly to pollinators and a rich source of food for them to forage.
This bank holiday weekend, surprisingly the weather has been lovely and sunny - just the weather for a spot of gardening. With the sun rising in the east, the front garden is in full sunlight very early on in the day and who should I find visiting the flowers but one of my little honey bees. There she was busy dipping into each flower to gathering what she needs to take back to the colony. The gardening soon got forgotten as I went back inside to grab a camera and take photos of her visiting each flower in turn.
The girls are well and truly settled into their new home, so it seems appropriate that their beehive needs to have a name. Decisions, decisions... do I go for Number 1 (being the very first) or what? Pondering this for some time, I had a bit of a light bulb moment a few weeks ago. As we live at Number 59, why not have 59a and 59b. Made absolute sense to me.
After two weeks of searching for her Ladyship and beginning to wonder if she was really in there, I finally got to meet Lizzie for the first time on frame 9 out of 12 while systematically going through the brood box this afternoon. What a very special moment to see her and an enourage of attendant bees surrounding her. With press-in queen marking cage and marker pen to hand, I wanted to mark her as quickly as possible without causing her any harm or stress.
There was an interesting article on BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme presented by Anna Hill this week reporting that the stop start Spring seems to be confusing honey bees this year and beekeepers are reporting a slow start in producing honey as their bees don't seem to be making honey as fast as they might. She spoke to David Southgate, a Norfolk beekeeper and a swarm collector for the local area.