We have often stated that to be a beekeeper is to worry. That is particularly true in the winter when our honeybees stay inside their hives, which we dare not open to see how they fare. During most winters the cold days will be broken by the odd warm afternoon during which we may catch sight of small clouds of bees taking a quick lavatorial flight. Not so this year. The warm afternoons have seemed scarcer and we may have been too distracted by life in the times of pandemic to pay as close attention as we ought.

But this last week of February we did take note of a relatively warm afternoon and went out to the hives. We saw no clouds but there was indirect evidence that they had been out. All the hives had a scattering of dead bees in front. Although the sight of dead bees usually saddens us, this time we were elated. Bees die naturally all the time including while clustered, awaiting springtime. Seeing their bodies in front of the hive meant that other bees were yet alive enough to remove the dead from the hive. Even better, the snow was dotted with the mustard flecks of fresh bee poop. And, of course, the dead do not poo.

Then on the first Wednesday of March, with an even warmer afternoon, we did see bee traffic from each hive. Beatrix was booming as ever. Less of a show from Clarissa and Dorcas but traffic natheless. And a veritable, reassuring cloud from Angharad.

Early in winter, we had noticed her sodden bottom board with a layer of dead clogging the reduced entrance. The weather had been windy and rainy so perhaps that was the source of the wet? Shimming the hive to tilt forward ever so slightly drained it and it stayed dry ever since. As for the dead bees, we used a hooked stick to scrape the bottom board and clear the entrance. We had since been fretting that our shunning the local custom of an upper entrance in winter may have doomed her. But, no, she seems quite well indeed. We even spotted one of her bees returning with some sort of pollen.

And so we conclude with our usual observation that there is yet time for treacherous spring to freeze or starve them but for now we rejoice that we still have all our colonies.