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The bees are doing my head in.  Just when I think I’m starting to learn how to ‘read the comb’ – they present me with something new, utterly different to anything I’ve seen before and I’m back to square one.  Or perhaps hexagon one – and I’m forced once again to spend hours on bee chat forums (yes seriously) and reading people’s bee blogs to search for help.

Now that it has finally stopped raining and the sun has come out to play here at Swallowtail Hill, I’ve been able to do a full hive inspection and assess what needs doing next.  All the signs are that honey production is slow this year because spring has sprung so late – in short there hasn’t been much blossom about for hungry bees.  Some beekeepers have even been suggesting supplementary feeding – which is really unusual this far into the year.   And for those of you who have even less of a clue than me – that doesn’t mean I go down to the hives with a smorgasbord of bee delicacies to tempt them to eat.  It just means sugar syrup or fondant to replace the stores of honey that they’d otherwise be using to keep themselves sustained.  I was just getting to the point of considering this when the Pillrags – one of our wildflower meadows – came into bloom and saved the day.

So what did the comb tell me?  Well honey is in production, but there isn’t much to shout about yet.  After much close scrutiny I found the queen but she wasn’t very busy – some eggs laid, and some brood (cells sealed while a new bee grows and develops) but no young larvae present.  There were also some empty queen cups – these aren’t the aftermath of a pre-Jubilee drinking session but rather the cells in which a queen bee is raised.  So my hunch is that my queen is a new one and that at some point very recently some of my colony swarmed with the old queen, hence the reproduction cycle is a bit on-the-back-foot for now.  Obviously I don’t think that ‘on-the-back-foot’ is a state that a bee can actually exist in but whatever – they have some catching up to do.

So I’ll leave them for a couple of days before checking on progress.  Thankfully I seem to be blessed with friendly bees.  They are usually nice and calm when I’m working with them.  I gave a talk the other week to a local women’s group and mentioned this fact, one lady who’d grown up on a farm and had always kept bees gave me the credit saying ‘they’re calm with you because you’re calm with them’ – which was just the loveliest compliment because anyone who knows me will tell you that calm isn’t my middle name.  120 miles an hour on full tilt is usually my modus operandi – but perhaps the bees are good therapy for me – watching them at work, everyone having a job, everything getting done as it should be done, always having a plan (even if I don’t understand it) but above all, being adaptable to the elements and always going with the (honey)flow – perhaps it’s the way to be(e)!

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