I have just been exchanging texts with my apprentice, Caps, who tells me that her remaining hive at Hardy’s birthplace has died. Conducting a post mortem by texts (continuing as I type) she tells me that there was sealed and emerging brood; that there’s plenty of stores, and yet some bees died with heads in cells.
My diagnosis is ‘isolation starvation’. In periods of cold weather they cuddle together to keep their babies warm and so use up all the food within easy reach. If there is some winter sunshine, maybe enough heat will penetrate the hive for the girls on the outside of the cluster to go and make a round of sandwiches for their sisters but, as I know from my solar heating, we can go for days without seeing the sun; also the Hardy’s Cottage apiary is on the north side of the woodland.
Caps is, of course, wanting to renew her bees and so I have suggested she checks out a ‘bee tree’ in a garden only 100 yards or so from her site. She kindly hived a swarm for me from that source last year but, unfortunately the queen failed to mate and became a drone layer. A lot of queens failed last year for one reason or another.
Good news is that I’m just back from visiting my friend, Jean, who still has bees flying from the holes I drilled in the soffit boards above her bungalow’s kitchen. She tells me that bees first took up residence above her kitchen ceiling 25 years ago and have been there ever since!