When spring springs with little warning…

Forager bees returning with full pollen pockets. Green alkanet is visible in the background.
Forager bees returning with full pollen pockets. Green alkanet is visible in the background.

It seems the bees didn’t fully stop flying at all this winter.  This has given us a couple of challenges, writes Grace Madden, Kairos Beekeeper. 

Firstly, they ran out of stores, so we’ve had to feed them artificial food.  Secondly, mild weather promotes condensation and mould, which can very quickly wipe out a colony.  With that in mind, it’s great news that we went into last winter with eleven colonies and came out with only two losses. 

It seems everything woke up early this year. 

Our queens have already been laying eggs like mad and plenty of food is available for the new brood.  Our first inspection of the year has shown just how far the colonies have already grown, and we’ve had to add the first honey boxes.  This usually happens in May!  It’s going to be a very busy year and I have high hopes for a record harvest.  Watch this space.

Just as unexpectedly, the green alkanet came out in January rather than March this year.  It’s an amazing plant that bursts into being wherever you are, blanketing everything in sight: from train lines to urban pathways to country fields.  It’s one of the only flowers that sustains all pollinators from the start of spring, along with the mighty dandelion.  Although often seen as a nuisance, I urge you not to kill, pull, or weed it!

In my fifth year of beekeeping, I’ve only today witnessed a bee doing a waggle dance for the first time.  A waggle dance is a dance a forager bee does to indicate to other bees the direction and distance of a good pollen source.  What a spectacular privilege.  It’s very exciting witnessing a live conversation, direct communication, between our bees. 

Our new volunteers have emerged from the book-learning of Bee School to their hands on experience.  Each volunteer has been assigned their own colony to look after.  I’m really excited to see them grow and learn.  It makes my heart sing to see other people discover the same things that blew my mind when I first experienced them.  I love my job!