Newbies and working bees

It’s hard work keeping up with the bees in spring, writes Kairos beekeeper Grace Madden

With spring having well and truly sprung and the sweet scent of summer in the air (well, nearly), the gentle humming of our hives and furious foraging of our bees let us know the new season is upon us beekeepers. There is much to be done. Our newbies are trying to keep up with our rapidly multiplying new bees, building frames that will store the eggs, nectar and pollen, and boxes that will eventually hold our bountiful harvest come autumn.

As the queen is laying up to 2,000 eggs a day, the colonies are expanding fast. From the beginning of spring our ever-reliable snow drops, furry heather, sprawling clover and vast expanse of dandelions have served as nourishment for the ravenous bees. With this rapid expansion comes the danger of swarming. The colonies have outgrown their home and after some conference decide half will leave with the old queen to find a new one. How they come to this decision is far beyond my grasp! Meanwhile, the half left behind will nurture a new queen and get on with their business. For us as beekeepers this can be devastating. In this case prevention is always better than the cure. Making sure they have enough room to expand is paramount. Even so, swarming seems inevitable, whether it’s one of your own or a neighbour’s colony. This can be fortuitous for those of us ready to expand our apiaries. With high, strategically-placed bait or swarm boxes lathered in bee balm lure and old wax that provides the familiar scent of home to entice them in, we can do just that.

In anticipation of our new colonies we must prepare to provide adequate forage. With the ever-dwindling green space in our cities and growing population of our pollinators we are responsible in making sure there is enough food to go around. With this in mind, these weeks are being spent readying the Kairos gardens for planting some of their favourites… and mine, wild fuchsia and spitfire will always remind me of home.

Pruning, painting, planting, sleeves rolled up, hammers and nails in hand, our eager new troops are learning fast and keeping pace! The excitement of spotting new eggs and queens for the first time is infectious. It still amazes me to see these tiny animals break through their cocoons and instinctively know exactly what to do. So, for now, we are going to continue making sure our ladies are happy, healthy, full-bellied and disease free while they get on with what they do best their only goal, inherently ingrained, the survival of the species.

  • Is there anyone out there who likes to get their hands dirty or is any good at turning rubbish into art, please join us – we have lots of raw materials! All welcome!