The weather these last few days has not felt like it should.  It seems silly to think that only a month or so ago the lovely Sharon and I were dining outside in the cool evening air.  Today seems to have been a little better and pleasant enough to try and repair some of the damage from the wind storm a few days ago.  One of the apple trees was blown over.  The damage may not be all that bad as the bark seems intact.  A steak driven deep into the ground is giving it a chance to try again at life.  One of the rowans took on a worrying tilt from the wind.  It is a tree that looks to be in teenage in tree years.  It too now has a thick metal steak driven into the grounds beside it.  The rowan is not a tree I want to loose, it is also called the quicken; a tree of life.  It is steeped in rich folklore in Ireland and is said to be so powerful that it drives away witches.  This is not lost on me and I mention this fact to a friend who visits sometimes.  She is the seventh daughter from the glens of Antrim.  I want to remember to mention it ever time she visits to see how much it annoys her (it won’t).  I want to look surprised and reflect rhetorically, “Oh, you made it?”

rowan tree by troutcolour

The damage of the storm makes me wonder how bad it was.  These trees have stood for years and have stood worse winds in the winter.  The recent storm was out of season and the trees were heavy with foliage and sap.  For a while today I sat beside the hive and watched the bees go about their business.  Pollen is being brought in, in small amounts.  This is a good sign and indicates that young larvae are still being fed.  However, a bad sign was the thirty or so dead bees outside the hive.  Some were nearly dead and looking forlorn, some were dead and showed deformed wings.  These are both symptoms of viruses which themselves are consequences of a varroa infestation.  I suspect that today was good enough weather for the bees to do some housekeeping and clear the floor of their dead that had accumulated over the last few housebound days. They are still being treated with their medicine to fight the mite and I must keep it in perspective as a handful of bees pale in comparison to the likely forty thousand (roughly) bees that live in the hive.  Also, scores of bees are constantly plucked from the entrance of the hive by the sparrows that nest in the corners of the cottage’s eaves.  Although it must be extremely expensive bird food, it is amusing to watch.  They hop down underneath the hive and pluck the bees as they arrive.  Once a bee is in beak they fly away as quickly and as desperately as possible.  I am sure it does not take much bee venom to kill a sparrow. With the varroa, viruses and sparrows I just hope they recover and are healthy again soon.  I suspect that with the extent of their infestation that they will be clearing out their dead for a few weeks to come.  We have noticed that bees have featured a lot in the media recently, and so they should.  They are having real problems and are an essential component of our agriculture, which translates into; food.

a bit of BBC radio Ulster about bees this morning

the hive today

Today we wandered around garden centres.  We slowly pondered weird and wonderful flowers and then had lunch.  At lunch we were entertained by the little man showing us his trick of deconstructing biscuits in the most messily way humanly possible.  We did buy a few plants.  We got a small collection of foxgloves to replace the ones that the destructive  lovely  Sharon disposed of.  A couple of months ago she did a little weeding and got stuck on a ‘weed’ she did not recognise.  She researched the books for a few days before deciding that the unknown was unfriendly and weeded out the mystery plant.  Luckily she missed a few that are now in flower and are unashamedly foxgloves.  The lovely Sharon is not very happy with herself at all.  She has now vowed to leave everything that she cannot identify in place just in case.