In late September 2020, after a year in the planning, Adrian finally was able to install the first two of what we hope will be many beehives on our six acres . They will help pollinate our crops and obviously provide real honey and associated by-products. Everything from beeswax furniture polish to lip balm! The girls had been getting a bit feisty at their previous location so finding them a solitary spot near our wood was a good move.
However, they arrived just before the onset of winter so there was an urgent need to get them settled in to their new surroundings giving them time to do a bit of foraging before the weather closed in. A few sunny days were all they needed and having done their preliminary circular orientation flights they were off in search of the last flowers of autumn.
It was a delight some three of four days later to see his girls poring over my fuschias and it made me realise that I had not ever noticed honey bees in our garden before (and we had been in our house some 15 years). All of our visiting bees had been bumble bees encouraged by our banks of bee hotels and of course by a field full of old mice nests which the larger bumbles prefer to make their home. Did you know there are 24 different species of bumblebee in the UK (25 if you include the reintroduced Short-haired bumblebee). Sadly, our bumblebees are in decline due to habitat loss, and two species have been driven to extinction here since 1940.
The first job was to feed the new girls with copious amounts of honey. My dear wife had foolishly encouraged Adrian to entrust this simple task to me which was the first mistake. And so it came to pass that suitably suited and booted and with a howling gale and rain lashing down, I lifted the lid on the first hive. Upon opening, I discovered that some bees had been able to enter the chamber where the syrup would be poured and I decided to encourage them to leave rather than drown them under the new batch. That was the second mistake.
They of course flew straight back into the hive and reported to queenie that their was a new bloke interfering with their syrup supplies. Naturally, the incensed monarch immediately called out her Praetorian guard who set about me furiously as I was making efforts to feed the second hive. Unfortunately, that second hive had a totally different feeding system which brings me to the third mistake. In my rush to deliver the warm syrup and avoid further upsetting the hives I poured it in the wrong place and it simply drained out of the bottom of the hive as I beat a hasty retreat.
Naturally, Adrian was unimpressed and whilst clearly grumpy, I suspect my position as his bee landlord saved me from the dressing down I thoroughly deserved. He seemed to know what he needed to deal with it though. I am not sure what he used but I am sure I heard him mutter the word “boron” under his breath before telling me I was lucky the heavy rain had washed away the spilt syrup. Naturally I imagine it will be a while before he lets me borrow his bee suit again!
Here is a short video of Adrian and his girls on day one of our great bee adventure.