Selmeston Bee Check

I went to check the wild-living bees as I’ve not been to see them since the beginning of May – not that they will have been remotely bothered!

These hives were effectively abandoned a few years ago, and the home-made hives are disintegrating, making it difficult to establish what’s going on as I daren’t prise the boxes open in case they fall apart. That said, the bees are fit, well, and absolutely fascinating to watch.

Last time, we put a super on the larger hive as the owners of the property like to have some honey if it’s available, so I gave them a bit more room. There is limited kit on hand as the hives are Langstroths so I can’t even substitute anything I have as mine are all British Standard. The smaller hive has a large hole in the side, which has grown bigger since last time, but the bees were bringing in pollen. There were quite a few drones and it was definitely quieter than before but we will have to wait and see what happens:

The other hive has an entrance I gave them at the top – by offsetting the crownboard, roof, and top super in such a way to create a gap which is nonetheless covered and protected from the elements.

They are still using the entrance in the base, although the floor is completely rotten and sitting on the ground. The hive itself is leaning at a rather rakish angle but again, I daren’t start trying to move anything for fear of collapse:

I noticed some bees flying in around the back of the hive, and a few repairing a split between the boxes with some propolis:

Down at the base of the hive at the back, more propolising to repair holes in the boards:

I did look under the roof of the larger hive but looking through the hole of the crownboard, there is nothing to speak of in there so I will not be removing it. The forecast is hot sunny weather for the next few weeks so they will have room to gather stores, but I won’t be disturbing them. I feel in any case, they are such a precious and valuable pair of colonies I don’t want to do anything which may compromise them. Being able to watch them living naturally is such an incredible privilege, and I would hate to disrupt their equilibrium by removing honey unless it is straightforward to do.

I used a slab of firewood to block the hole in the smaller hive, as although I presume they will be fine for the summer, I didn’t feel I could leave them with a gaping wound to their protective external body, so I am hoping they will add some propolis to my Heath Robinson solution if they feel it is necessary.

Watching the resilience and dynamic responses of these bees to the deficiencies in their home is truly astounding. This adaptability is such an important mechanism for survival yet we feel we must cosset and interfere and systematically get in the way of them doing what they are meant to be doing. I just hope the hive bodies make it through the winter.

3 Replies to “Selmeston Bee Check”

  1. It is a fine line between helping and meddling with bees. You have such a natural feel for all creatures great and small Jennifer. I put out some sugar syrup for my top bar bees this week but they have ignored it and are happily going out getting pollen and nectar elsewhere. Nice thing about winter where I live is that there are a lot of native plants and trees flowering. In high summer plants shut down (a lot of them anyway) so there is more of a hunger gap for pollinators.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge so generously.

    Pen xo

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