Sometimes I could watch bees all day. I took this photograph at about 11 am one daythis week and there were hundreds of bees queuing to enter the hive to offload their cargo. It was busier than Battersea Heliport. I was reminded of a cartoon of burglars wearing black striped jumpers joyfully carrying off their sacks marked “Swag”, but in this instance the burglars were bees carrying yellow and orange pollen in the sacs on their legs. When bees are collecting pollen it usually means that they are feeding plenty of fresh brood, so it is an encouraging sign that my new colony is expanding. I will check this on my next inspection but for now my main worry is that they should be putting away some stores of honey to see them through the Winter. When I last looked this was not happening so I am feeding them sugar syrup to encourage them to do so. It means that I will again have to leave for the bees whatever honey they do produce this year.
I was very disappointed to lose my colony last Winter. According to a recent national survey of beekeepers, only half the colonies of bees in the North survived, 3 times the average loss! Whilst it was not a surprise after the poor weather last year and late Spring this year, it is a worry. After all, bees are living creatures and one can become quite attached to the little blighters, even if they do show their lack of appreciation for your efforts by stinging you! I am thus doing everything I can to cosset my bees this year and this includes the recent purchase of a 2nd hive and colony. I figure that this doubles my chances of taking a colony through to Spring next year. It is of course a bit late to establish fresh colonies of bees as the Queens will start to slow down their laying pattern any time now in preparation for the Winter. It is thus a race against time to build up the colony to have sufficient numbers and stores to survive the Winter. However, I am banking on the fact that as Nature is behind this year, the plants may be out for an extra month to serve as forage for the bees. It might be a bit of nip and tuck but if I get it right and succeed in keeping both colonies alive until next Spring, then I will have a good base to expand my apiary. Might I get honey for tea in my 3rd year as a beekeeper? Time will tell.