It happened while I was in the veg plot. I heard it as I squatted down to whisper words of encouragement to the drooping purple sprouting broccoli. I’d last heard that sound some time back in October but there was no mistaking it. And then there it was again, this time near my left ear. I smiled to myself, feeling relieved and uplifted in equal measure. Yes, the bees had made it through the long winter and on the first day of real sunshine, the kind that feels warm on the face and raises hopes that just maybe spring might really be around the corner, they were out and about, flexing their little wings & stretching their fuzzy legs. It looked like party time outside the hive as bee after bee emerged from the hive, hovered tentatively & then shot off over the field buzzing busily.
I’m a beekeeper with a tendency to worry constantly, so relief soon turned to anxiety. Would my bees overdo the exercise, fooled by the sun into thinking winter is over, fly too far in search of non-existent nectar and pollen sources and not make it back before the sun drops and the temperature plummets? If the queen is still on a winter egg laying break then these precious worker bees still had a vital role to play in keeping the colony alive until there is new brood ready to hatch. No point asking the bees to be careful. Nothing to do but trust that the bees know best. I was itching to lift the roof and peer inside in search of queenie, but as warm as the sun might feel it would be unfair and foolhardy of me to risk the life of the colony by introducing great wafts of February chill into the cluster. Sit tight and keep watching and waiting.
Back on the plot, inspection of over-wintered crops continued – brussels looking like bog brushes, broccoli exhausted by weeks of freezing, thawing, freezing, thawing, winter lettuces stalled at a size that wouldn’t even feed an anorexic fairy.
There’s good news and bad news down in the fruit patch. The bad news is that the winter storms took no time at to deconstruct my carefully constructed network of bird scaring DVD danglers. They’re now tanglers rather than danglers, and I’m picking DVDs out of the grass and hedge. The good news (or perhaps, given the lack of scarers, that should be bad news) is that weeks of way below zero temperatures haven’t killed off the plants – the blueberries and blackcurrants have buds galore… for now.