JANUARY

Sitting here at my desk, the first thoughts as usual at this time, “where did last year go”? Before proceeding, I’ve just taken a quick look at last January’s entry, and I’d began it on more or less the same note so I’ll just leave it with “where did last year go”? and move swiftly on.

We are going into 2017 with our stocks more or less up to strength, the frenetic activity at the hive entrances on the days when the sun has managed a prolonged appearance has encouraged me to take an optimistic view of the season ahead. I told of how I had given them all a portion of fondant the week before Christmas, well, last Wednesday was particularly fine and warm. The first thing I noticed on pulling into the car park at Mendip “C”, even before climbing out of the car, was the number of flying bees in attendance. It was more like an April morning than one at the beginning of January. The bees were obviously enjoying this post Christmas bonus and took little or no notice of me as I approached. An opportunity to check the fondant level I decided, and was I glad that I did. In the couple of weeks since receiving the fondant, and I’m talking about a block about the size of a pound of butter to each hive, they had each managed to reduce it to little more than the size of a 10p piece.

It is easy to miss-interpret the signs at this time of year. This amount of activity around April time is a most welcome sight, telling us that our bees have over-Wintered successfully and that our queens have commenced laying in earnest. With Spring flowers now very much in evidence, there is no shortage of forage, so as I say, a welcome sight. However, in January and February it’s a very different matter. There is little or no forage about now, so the bees have little choice but to delve deeply into their Winter stores, stores which should be lasting them well into Spring, but which, at this rate, will be lucky to see March out. All that is needed is a cold, wet Spring, similar to those of the last couple of years and we have a disaster on our hands. It’s an easy mistake to make, miss-reading the signs, and sad to say, one I’ve made on more than one occasion. There can be no more sobering sight than, when at your first inspection, instead of the hundreds of bees that you expected to find, all busily going about their business, you are confronted with a tiny bottom poking out of each comb. Each one belonging to a bee which had starved trying in vain, to glean the last vestige of honey from the comb.

Suffice to say, by the end of the day, they had all received another portion of fondant. I shall continue to regularly monitor the fondant situation and give more whenever I think fit and strongly recommend that you do the same. If you need any encouragement, just picture all of those tiny bottoms looking up at you.

I’ve said before that in my view, an understated bonus to the hobby we all enjoy, is the lovely people that we come into contact with. People that otherwise, we would probably never even meet. I’m glad to say, last Tuesday was no exception. I gave my first talk of the year to a local ”Over 60′s Group”. I had never met any of them before, but, they made me feel so welcome that I felt like one of the family within moments. When the Chairman asked me to please move my table a little closer to the front row, I did enquire whether the reason was to make me a better target if they decided to start throwing things, but I needn’t have worried. They gave me an enthusiastic reception, and said some lovely things when I had finished. Some even laughed at my silly jokes, another bonus!  After a cup of tea and a biscuit, I bid my farewells. I meant it when I said that they made me feel like one of the family and even writing about it a week later, I get a warm feeling inside. I was just sorry I couldn’t leave them with a couple of jars of honey by way of a thankyou,. Ah well,hopefully next time.

Not much to report for the last couple of weeks, the weather has, to say the least, been pretty dismal. Although I have continued to visit on all but the worst days, I haven’t chanced opening any of the hives so, I can only hope that the stores situation is holding up. I always seem to find myself between a rock and a hard place at this time, does one open a hive and risk chilling the occupants, or keeping your fingers crossed, leave them to it. I’m as sure as I can be that the extra fondant they all received earlier in the month will keep them going for a while longer so, at least for the time being, I’ve decided on the latter.