The bees have been rather challenged by the weather this year and my hives have seemingly plateaued after a slow start. Dealing with hot, cold, wind and wet needs resilient bees, and I was interested to see how the Thermosolar bees did this year.
The site looks great. I love this sort of unmanaged management and it shows what happens when you actually just leave nature to get on with it. There is waist-high grass, chased through with vetch and trefoil, and the teasels and thistles are providing a mass of food for finches. Grasshoppers hopped among the grass; dragonflies lazily hunted around the taller stems. The odd thing is, there is so much resistance to taking land “out of production” yet most agricultural land is a biodiversity desert. This area is producing so much biomass and a wide array of natural benefits. Arguably this is far more necessary to support our agricultural land – thus making it more sustainably productive – than having more and more farming?
I tore myself away to go and see the hives.
Foragers were returning with a toffee coloured pollen which I think could be Michaelmas daisy, but there weren’t that many around. Lots of bramble and elecampane, as well as bindweed but I’m not sure what is beyond the boundary…something I need to investigate. The new colony was really busy, but have not built anything in the super. The brood box was quite full, however, so as there could still be a few more weeks of good weather, I kept it on.
The original colony was a bit quieter, and they too have not built in to the upper super. The box immediately above the brood box was full of comb and a fair bit of honey, but the bees need this for winter so I won’t be harvesting any. You can see they have built some nice wonky banana comb in that honey box, and about half of the cells are empty. They will fill those for the winter so I am not concerned about them running out of stores, but there is no surplus to be taken.
The bees were in remarkably good spirits and it was a pleasure to see them. There were no varroa on the board of the new colony, and a smattering on the original hive. The hives are heavily propolised which unfortunately is meant to be discouraged in the Thermosolar hives: why I am not quite sure as it is such a valuable attribute to have bees that heavily protect their hive from disease.
The hives are surrounded by thistles, and the spider webs were festooned in thistledown. The vegetation around the hives provides a great buffer against wind and robbing bees, and although many people think that hive entrances should be kept clear, I have never seen the point myself.
We are having a site visit in September to introduce the hives to local residents, and it will be great to showcase some of the wildlife around the bees.