I got a couple of stings this afternoon! I took combs heavy with honey from a colony that had died of starvation and gave some of them to a couple of colonies that have plenty of bees but are short of stores.
I don’t really mind the odd sting at this time of year as it keeps up my immunity. In the past, my first stings of the beekeeping year have taken 2 days swelling up and another 2 going down again but, now I’ve learned the trick of getting the occasional one through the winter, that doesn’t happen any more.
How (I hear you chorus!!!) can a colony that died of starvation have combs heavy with honey??? Simply that they died of ‘isolation starvation’, meaning that the cold weather made them cluster together for warmth generated by metabolic heat through eating honey. Normally, the occasional sunny day warms the interior of the hive enough for the bees on the outside of the cluster to move onto fresh stores and make a round of honey sandwiches to pass around their sisters until the cluster as a whole is able to move. This winter has been so gloomy, sunless and cold that they weren’t able to do so. Partially it was my fault for ignoring the advice to site hives where the sun will strike them on Christmas Day, but these were on my allotment, where I have to keep them tucked away to avoid scaring neighbouring gardeners.