I last went to see these bees in August last year (read about them here) and I was really hopeful that they’d made it through the winter. The landowner had said she hadn’t seen much activity, and the cold snap we had a week or so ago had doomed a few colonies I know, so I was wondering how the hives had fared, given that the wood of the homemade Langstroths is decidedly shaky.
I was relieved and thrilled to see bees entering the hive, but suffice to say the winter has not been kind! There seems to be woodpecker damage to the lid and upper box of one hive:
…but the bees inside seem fine:
I have rested some sticks over the gap and will see if the bees glue them down with propolis, or shove them off…
I have a video of my visit here:
The bees were bringing in so much pollen; the hives are surrounded by willows and the flowering plums and blackthorn are now out too. The entrance is almost submerged in to the earth at the base but there were lots of bees out foraging. There is a second entrance in one of the top corners of the brood box but most of the pollen seemed to be coming in at the front.
The second hive is leaning forwards at a rakish angle, and there is a huge hole along the base, exposing about a third of the brood box, but I had patched this up with a strapped-on piece of log last year, and the bees had attempted to glue it on. They have sealed the bottom entrance and also the top: there is propolis dripping out of the cone escape in the lid!
These bees are just amazing and I really really enjoy watching what they are doing with their respective hive spaces. I am not able to replace any of the boxes as the wood is so fragile but we are going to get a new hive so that we can hopefully house a swarm from these incredible colonies.