Yesterday I opened up the beehive for an inspection.  I had left them for a whole two weeks for fear of upsetting them too much. There were evenings last week when the sunshine and warmth I felt on the way home had tempted me to have a peek.  On every occasion my hopes were quickly dashed by the sight of the swaying trees.  It seems that we are vulnerable to these strong easterly breezes and I imagine the bees would not be too pleased if I opened them up in such conditions.

Saturday was calmer.  It was warm and the trees seemed to sway only gently at times.  I got suited up and got all the kit ready for an inspection, of sorts.  On many occasions I have set myself up on a chair in the apiary and sat and watched the coming and goings of the bees.  I have spotted all sorts of colours of pollen being carried in.  It seems that pollen can be any colour from white to black. At the moment it seems to be cream, vibrant yellow or rich ochre.  I have also watched bees that have reached the suitable age to leave the hive and become foragers; they circle the hive in ever increasing circles as they imprint the garden and the fields in their mind’s eye.  On Saturday I approached the hive and saw something I had never seen before.  I can only describe it as hurried desperation.  Bees were flying in from all directions.  They buzzed passed me high and low ignoring my presence completely.  I was a little confused at first until I smelt the faint hint of moisture in the air.  Once the suspicion formed slowly in my mind I looked around for conformation and saw the rainstorm.  It was sweeping in with some speed but then seemed to pause then veer past.  The bees in the surrounding fields must have sensed it long before my pitiful nose and they headed back to home at full speed rather than be caught out in heavy rain.  Bees that get trapped out in such conditions do not survive a night in the wild alone.

After watching this take place I carried on once the air began to smell a little dryer.  I opened up the hive and had a look through most of it.  I stopped myself from looking through the whole hive as I do not yet have the experience to know what to do.  I thought that there was little point looking at everything until I knew what to do with what I saw.  I did see lots of comb being built a little untidily, young larvae, fat drone cells and the beginnings of a queen cup.  The queen cup was the most worrying thing.  It could mean preparations to swarm but more likely it means nothing and they are ‘play cups’.  Some bees seem to just want to prove to themselves that they can do things just for the sake of it.  I suspected the bees needed a little more room and so I stuck on a ‘super’, the box for them to make the extra honey in.

I edited out the twenty minutes of looking through the frames

On Sunday I met at a location in a Lord’s estate.  I met to be escorted to a sight off limits to the public.  We dove through massive fields untouched by busy roads or houses.  We passed though bluebell blanketed forests on gravel tracks until we stopped at a wide and shallow river lined with old trees that seemed to go as far as the river could be seen.  It was an idyllic location that felt like a remote wild place and the need for an escort added to the clandestine feel.  The escort was only to ensure we did not get lost and the idyllic location was the site of the apiary. We suited up with our beekeeping teachers and chatted about what to expect.  We did this in a tidy little hut that served as a sort of quarantine.  Inside was one of our teachers, and elderly and enthusiastic gentleman, who was going to show us how to put together frames of beeswax.  The door served as a sort of air lock that had to be kept locked and beeproof as he was highly, and dangerously, allergic to bees; I liked him already.

the bluebells on the Lord’s Estate

Apparently I spent two hours over the bees but it felt like about half an hour.  I learnt a massive amount in that short space of time.  Part of me wished I had this practical session before I had my own bees, but then a larger part of me felt it was right that my head was buzzing with questions due to bumbling about with my own hive.

It was a fantastic experience in which I learnt a lot but I do feel the need to mention two insignificant events that sit on my mind.  One was when our teacher spotted an insect inside his veil.  He turned to us in a matter-of-fact manner and asked if we could tell him if it was a bee or a fly.  We told him it was a fly and then I added it was one of those ‘St. Mark’s Flies’, I don’t think he even heard my pathetic attempt to impress him.  The other event was when two cock pheasants landed just three meters away from us as we were deep in the hives.  Everybody ignored their territorial bickering as if it was all quite normal; it was all very middle class.