After being flung into summer with the briefest of springs, our local fauna did not hang about in making up for lost time! I've never known a spring to be so stop-start! It was like a tease here, a taunt there, then... Whoosh! Everything at once!
The fondant could come out of the hives, the farm duck pond erupted again in the mornings and at night with the calls of the springtime flock and the martins and swallows reappeared in our Sussex skies!
I did a spring inspection of my then one hive of bees, approximately a month later than usual. I had no worries though as they started to build quickly and it wasn't long before we could carry out an artificial swarm procedure, splitting the colony into two. The farm was surrounded by oilseed rape this year, so the supers filled quickly and I took my first harvest in early June.
We have plentiful ducks on the pond and have no need for more, so before work every morning I race with the local corvid population to the banks to collect from the early layers before the crows and magpies beat me to it!
At work, the house martin colony that have frequented my clients' eaves for decades have had a difficult two years with alterations on the house being carried out. They still constructed four nests last year after we successfully coaxed them to alternative eaves away from the building work. This year, they're flying in and around scaffolding, occupying three nests as the work comes to an end.
On the farm this last week, I took a swarm from the old farmhouse. The swarm conveniently left the cavity wall at 4 pm on a Saturday afternoon and I waited for them to start clustering in the cherry tree on the front lawn and then went out to do a bit of shopping. On returning, I lay a sheet below them with a box, gathered my bee suit and step ladder and shook them down into my box. By 10.30 that night, they were successfully hived!
After a stop-start beginning to my beekeeping life and after three years, I now have three occupied hives. My lesson now is to successfully keep and manage them well. I'll return with my usual 'Gardening Tales from the Weald' next month.
Goodbye and good luck until then!