Not in the case of beehives. Al hasn’t updated his site since June, so I’ll tell you how they’re getting on.
His single hive came safely through the winter, something he was very anxious about. The temptation to keep checking them is one to be resisted, as letting in cold air can chill the bees fatally. In the spring, he prepared a new hive, ready to split the colony by taking the queen and some workers away, leaving queen cells behind. However, on the day he went to do it, he found he was too late and she’d already left with her own swarm. He can only do this sort of job on a Sunday as he works every other day, and if the weather isn’t right one week, he has to wait. We looked for the swarm but couldn’t find it. He was cross with himself – he said that if only he’d left the new hive there ready, she probably would have crawled right in there.
Anyway, he decided to split the hive anyway, and took half the frames, including some queen cells, to the new hive. It was a bit risky as neither, weakened, colony might survive. But they did and they’ve flourished.
It turns out to have been the best thing that could have happened. Last year, checking the hive each week was quite a trial as the bees were not at all sweet-tempered, and no work could be safely done in the vicinity of the hive unless you were all tricked out in a bee suit. A bee-keeper’s suit, that is, not a stripy yellow and black number. But these two queens are lovely, calm and good-natured. In fact, they are a pair of little honeys. And the nature of the queen sets the mood of the hive. So looking after them has been a pleasure. I gather that, if you find yourself with a bad-tempered queen, it’s best to cut your losses and get rid of her, but as it was his first experience of beekeeping he didn’t know how moody she was, and besides I don’t think he could have borne to. It would be different for professional beekeepers with dozens of hives, I daresay.
Not that he’s taken any honey this year. He’s using the excuse that they need a year to build up, being starter hives again, and I’m sure he’s right, but he was glad of a reason not to tackle the job. He isn’t looking forward to that part of the whole enterprise. Funnily enough, he isn’t keeping bees for the sake of the honey. He just likes bees.
Zerlina also likes bees, if her reaction to her new rucksack is anything to go by. She adores it – although she can’t see it while she’s wearing it, of course – and is terribly proud of herself, not wanting to take it off when they arrive home. When the Sage and I called round the other day she stood there expectantly for (duly delivered) admiration. It has a little waterproof hood with antennae, which looks sweet but is rather large, and she sweeps it off as soon as you’ve had a chance to exclaim over it.