It’s officially Spring in my world now.
There’s always more to life than the shenanigans and witterings of red-faced politicians….
Wednesday 9th of March at about 12.30 post meridiam ,to be exact. That was when my honeybees officially took flight from their hives.I wondered for some weeks now if they had actually survived this long damp winter. The drear wet damp can do more damage than even the hoariest cold, but in Norneverland we only had some intermittant snow and frost here and there this winter. I saw the odd bee landing at the entrance of only one of the hives a couple of weeks ago but that was probably only a defecation flight ( they do like to keep things tidy inside the hives and they’ve had their legs crossed for quite some time)…or possibly one of the scouts returning after a reconnoitre to see how the land was lying and if anything had decided to bloom within a mile or two. There was no real blossom to be seen except for a few bluebells, some little purple primulas and those little yellow wildflowers…celandines, I think, that look a bit like a more elegant and gentrified …. buttercup and miniature daffodils here and there…. but I imagined there was really not much yet for a whole hive of workers to get their teeth ….or rather their noses into and fill their crops with.
Then within days the white blackthorn blossom popped along the roadsides . That really cries out “Spring”.The blackthorn puts on quite a presentation for the bees with all those luxurious fine white blossoms. In Ireland there are some great legends connected to the blackthorn tree. It is the forerunner and ancient ancestor of all our cultivated plums and many still collect the sloes from it in Autumntime. It’s a great wild fruit for making your own sloe gin if you have a mind.The tree has long been associated in myth and legend with life and death and it was considered really bad luck to bring any blackthorn inside the home because it was supposed to spell impending death for someone. The curious thing about the plant is that the blooms spring open long before the leaves grow and cover the branches. it’s a bit odd in that respect. People still like to make knobbly blackthorn walking sticks and it was the favoured wood for the ultimate Irish weapon…the shillelagh back in the good olden days when a favourite pastime was bashing skulls.Sometimes if the Spring is still inclement it is known as a “blackthorn winter” but no matter , the tree is a boon to insects awakening after a bloom-free winter rest.My bees have been feeding all winter on the honey I left them in the Autumn last year. I decided not to feed them homemade sugar syrup but let them dine au naturale on their own produce. I might , of course steal a little honey leftovers from each of the hives when it warms up and spur them for summer’s work by feeding them some baker’s fondant and a few bags of white sugar or sugar syrup to get their dander up. I’d rather not feed them at all if possible , but sometimes a weak hive might need some help. If it’s a good summer at least they’ll be fed and I’ll get some honey in return. For me it’s not just about the honey anyway.It’s about the life and the environment.
I could only see three hives actively buzzing but a few days later two more lit up and the langourous winter bees could be seen practising their flying and hovering skills, exercising those stiffened muscles, just in front of each hive entrance. Hopefully all five hives are in a healthy state and soon there’ll be newer bees to join them, but I’ll be patient and not open the hives up for inspection for a while yet.I’ll take the winter insulation out of the roofs once the temperature climbs. One of the brood boxes looks as though it needs replacing , repaired or dumped.That’s what you get when you buy or make a cheaper plywood version as an experiment. It’s safer to stick to some good timber boards or these new “poly” hives. Winter weather will eventually warp and split everything all asunder, no matter how much paint is applied .I’ll fix it up with a fibreglass car body-repair kit , if at all possible, paint it up and keep it as a spare.Timber brood boxes are expensive.
So that’s the year really off and running .
Of course it also means I’ll have to mow that damned lawn every week for the next six or seven months…..but then there’s always a price to pay for everything in this life, I always say.