Our Queen Bee is alive!
Hello bees! We hope you’re enjoying the small bouts of spring weather that have finally reached us here in the UK. With temperatures warming, we couldn’t wait to get an update from our resident beekeeper Pa Harper (Just Bee co-founder Joe’s dad) to see what’s going on for him and his fury little friends in Lancashire. As Pa Harper has explained to us before, bees hibernate over the winter, so when we had a message from him saying he’d spotted a few of his bees buzzing around The Hive, we couldn’t wait to find out more! We wanted to know what goes on for beekeepers at this time of year, whether the early sign of a bee means good news for the Hive, and if there’s anything us regular folk can do to help the bees at this time of year. So without further ado, here’s our chat with the man himself! We hope you find it as interesting as we did!
So Ron, great to hear from you again! Rumour has it you spotted a bee recently. That’s unBEElievable news right?!
Oh yes – it’s great news for me. Here in Ormskirk (that’s up north in Lancashire for those of you who don’t know!), it’s still way too cold to open up The Hive, but seeing a few bees flying around is a great sign. Until now there’d been little sign of any activity apart from a solitary bee nipping out for a quick flight on a sunny day. And then today, with the sun shining, there must have been half a dozen. I even saw one bringing back pollen to the Hive. This means that our Queen Bee is alive.
Ah Ron, that’s awesome! So our Queenie is alive and she’s been laying eggs?
Yep, that’s right. I’m pretty certain that she’s laid and that the bees are slowly getting out to gather pollen (*for protein, to build up those muscles in their young). I can’t be sure though, as it’s still too early to open up the Hives to check, so I’ll have to wait a little longer.
It must be challenging when you can’t open the Hives! Have you been particularly concerned this year?
Yes and no. It’s not been too tough a winter, so I haven’t been too concerned. It’s been cold, but not too cold. The worst kinds of winters are when we get warm spells then cold spells. This confuses bees big time! The queen starts laying eggs if there’s a warm spell because she thinks spring has arrived, then when you get a cold spell, the bees can’t go out of the Hive to get food.
Oh dear, that doesn’t sound good. British weather is so terribly befuddling. Do we want to know what happens to these rather BEEfuddled bees?
It’s not a pretty tale. There’s mouths to feed you see. If the bees use up all of their honey stores in the Hive, then they’ll starve to death if they can’t get outside. They just mightn’t have enough food to survive inside once the Queenie’s laid her eggs.
So is there anything to do if we get a cold spell?
Luckily yes! A lot of bee keepers using what’s called ‘Baker’s fondant’, which can be used to feed the Hive in times of need.
Interesting, we never knew it was used in this way! Do you use this too Ron?
No, I prefer to leave my bees to themselves. I don’t like to interfere. My colony was strong in the autumn and it had plenty of honey stored. Anyway, it’s not long now before I’m pretty sure my bees will have survived the winter.
Well we’re definitely keeping our fingers and toes crossed! In the meantime, is anything else to do before spring?
Of yes, there’s plenty to be done. For me, as a beekeeper, it’s time to get ahead of the game. I’ve got to wash my bee suit (to avoid getting unwanted bacteria in The Hive) and make up new frames too. I make these myself and replace them each year, again to prevent bacteria from building up. I’ve got to start early though as each Hive needs about 30-40 frames making! I’ve got a few Hives, so it can take a while!
Ah boy, it sounds like you’re going to be a busy bee! If you need an extra hand Ron, you know where we are!
Ah thanks! You know what everyone can do; they can make sure to plant plenty of the right flowers, those that flower in early spring. Snowdrops and crocuses are the most well-known. Bees rely on these at this time of year. Come April/May there’s plenty of choice, but at the moment, it’s pretty limited.
Well, we sure have learnt a lot from Pa Harper today and we’ll be off to the garden centre to find some crocuses and snowdrops too! I spotted these crocuses (above) in South London the other day. If you spot any bee friendly flowers or early fury friends and manage to grab a snap, then send your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org or tag us on social media @justbeedrinks. More on our bee friendly wild flower seeds, how to get them and how to plant them coming soon!
Stay BEEautiful bees!
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