It seemed an auspicious day today what with one thing and another. Eclipse, equinox, it really is a time of transition and change. Today also marked an important moment in the beekeeping year – the removal of the mouse and wood pecker guards. Over winter we protect our hives from the various creatures that would like to gorge on the protein and sugar inside. Mice are the more common culprit, often making foraging forays into hives over winter. Most of the year the mice wouldn’t stand a chance as the the bees are well equipped to dispatch of most mammalian foes (I say most, as bears can handle a thorough stinging without seeming to be too phased but fortunately we don’t have them to contend with round here). In the winter however, when the bees are clustering and torpid their usual defenses are down and a mouse could happily saunter into a hive with no opposition at all. That’s why we use mouse guards – a cunning contraption that allows just enough space for the bees to come and go but no more. We also have the mixed blessing of woodpeckers on our site. They are are joy to hear in the woods and the flash of brilliant green is always a delight but these beautiful creatures we share this land with can be a menace. Even a short burst of pecking on the side of a hive can be enough to shake the bees out of their winter cluster, potentially causing the colony to die if it is cold enough. The woodpeckers are after the bees rather than the honey. They would relish the chance for a bounty of winter protein. To prevent this we wrap our hives in chicken wire to prevent the birds from be able to get within pecking range. Today all this came off with a sigh of relief.
All 5 of our colonies were making good use of the first official day of spring. Bright balls of pollen flowed into the hives, glowing yellow on the bees hind legs. This tells me that they are all raising young and thus have laying queens. Now we can rest easier, safe in the knowledge that these 5 colonies at least have made it through the arduous winter and will see the cycle turn again another revolution. With the hives now free from the chicken wire I took the opportunity to take the first look of the year through the observation panels. The magic of being able to glimpse, however fleetingly, into the working of the hive never ceases. I smiled to watch a forager laden with pollen announcing her find to her sisters.
We too were feeling spring in our step. Jess, Ashley and Susanna were out in the bright sun planting out a willow hedge. This development is part of our apiary refurbishment this winter. There is still lots to do and swarming season will be upon us in no time but let’s not dwell on that and stop and appreciate this turning as it happens. Here’s to the coming of the light and the hedges of the future.