B Movies Anyone?

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Em and Jay. The two beekeepers of the plot. Two hives: one on their own plot, against the cemetery fence, shaded by tall trees for most of the day. The other on another plot, the opposite side of the central roadway and down the slope a ways.

Jay is a fellow-member of my reading group. Before discussing the latest book we were, as gardeners will – discussing the state of the world which revolves around bees. She was telling me that, to her surprise their bees, in early May, with plenty of space in which to expand their colony are making queen cells – as if preparing to swarm. Unusual she reckoned.

I am taken by the industriousness of all of the British bees (wasps and ants too for that matter); their social organisation, altruism and their, almost certainly unconscious, interaction with the wider environment as they are chief pollinators for many flowers and crops. At the same time I also cringe at the apparent total lack of individuality that brings about the whole. With honey bees in particular I sometimes need to remind myself that they are wild animals, their general docility and “belonging” to a hive owned by humans is an illusion. They are in fact just doing what wild bees would do and taking part in a relationship that is mutually beneficial.

I always believed that spring was the likeliest and most logical time of year for bees to swarm. My grandfather would often repeat the lines;

“A swarm in May

Be worth a load of hay,

But a swarm in June

Is worth a silver spoon

And a swarm in July

Not worth a fly.*”

Then we noticed that the steady stream of bees stopping to drink in our “wildlife ponds” has ceased completely. And a man working on a neighbouring plot was forced to make a sharp exit because of the aggressive nature of the colony. (We actually wonder as he is new to this plot whether he actually knew the hive was there; maybe his own behaviour because of his innocent ignorance disturbed the bees.) I have, however witnessed my family being attacked by honey bees and know that it is no laughing matter. We all believe that these particular bees were seeking to protect their colony (although no real threat was offered) but the attack was real and sustained with, quite literally, dozens of painful stings being delivered. The pain went on for some days. Bees sting differently – and for different reasons to wasps; the bee will die shortly after stinging. This doesn’t make the sting any easier to take.

Then yesterday I noticed both Em and jay busy with the second hive. Looking like the mysterious figures from a 1950s B movie (see what I did there?) they slo-mo about the paths, bending, pointing carefully. Recognisable only because I know them. Otherwise, somewhat alarming in the pristine whitenss of their alien/NBC suit uniforms. At a distance Sailor Dee and I wonder exactly what has been happening. Is everything OK/ Is this a routine maintenance visit?

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Have the bees  swarmed?  Neither of us has any idea, but an untidily written paper on just one of the site’s rather flimsy new notice boards has their ‘phone number – in case of swarms. Note to committee:

[Will new plotholders know about the hives on site?  And which plots they are actually on? And, hey shouldn’t that notice be better written and on all notice boards?]

For more interesting and technical information take a trip to

http://thebeejournal.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/swarm-in-may.html

or for more general interest

https://lizard100blog.wordpress.com/2015/05/24/the-bees-knees/

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Love the play on words. B movies… lol! I’ve seen or heard the rhyme somewhere before. My sister has a couple of bee hives. It has not been a good year for them. She’s had to burn two hives due to some kind of moth invasion.

    Reply

    • Sorry to hear about your sisters hives.
      Essentially the rhyme, as you’ve almost certainly guessed – means that swarms taken on by beekeepers later in the year do not produce honey but need a lot of input for the colder seasons.

      Reply

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