Hive check at West Rise School Apiary

It was another beautiful day at Langney Marsh when we went to check the bees:

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The weather has been very warm and dry recently and we were hoping that the bees would be foraging enthusiastically. We couldn’t see a huge number of nectar sources in the immediate vicinity and the prevailing wind was doing its usual thing of whisking across the Marsh at an unrelenting pace…

The children were busily engaged with their Forest School activities: weaving fleece on a loom made from a frame of sticks lashed with twine, and enjoying flatbreads made with Bronze Age technology and spread with homemade butter. The beeswax rendered from the unoccupied hive will be used for projects with the children – last time they made a hand salve. The ability to use authentic resources from the apiary on the prehistoric site surely adds so much to the experience as it demonstrates the link between ourselves and our ancestors so effectively.

Down at the apiary, the windbreaks have made a tremendous difference to the bees. They are so calm and contented we can sit on the side bales either side and watch as they navigate their way back with various loads of pollen. There was evidence them having found a source of Himalayan balsam with the distinctive pale-brushed thorax of some of the returning bees. Ivy and aster are now in full flower and the bees are foraging on these which is great to see. There was a lone wasp but no evidence of it making any serious pass at the entrance.

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We took the back off the observation window to have a peek inside:

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The colony is still expanding and a new comb is forming on the right hand side as it migrates out to fill the space. We didn’t remove the lid but the edges of the combs are full of honey and if the weather holds, we are hoping they’ll be able to gather sufficient stores.

The forage provision has all but vanished from the Marsh itself, which is something we will be addressing next year as part of the ongoing plan for the site. There is a good stand of comfrey within the confines of the apiary but this is no longer flowering. A few hawk’s-beards are still flowering, and the occasional thistle, but the grasshoppers have dwindled too. Plenty of dragonflies though, and flocks of goldfinches enjoying the swathes of thistledown.

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