I admit it, I was fooled by the warm sunshine, the cherry blossom and the cranes returning from their winter feeding grounds. Here it is, I thought, Spring at last, and delightfully early. Don't be fooled, warned a friend, this often happens, then all of a sudden it's winter again. Surely not, I thought, as I enjoyed a Sunday pint outside, soaking up the welcome rays. The bees were clearly of the same mind as out of the hives they came, shaking the winter blues off their wings, exploring the world in 2017. It was wonderful to see them again and to see them so active - in no time at all they were foraging for pollen, carrying back heavy loads of bright yellow grains. Aha, they found the mahonia and yellow crocuses!
It's still a bit too chilly to open the hives for a full inspection, but I have exchanged the candy feed for sugar syrup to give them a boost, and they are now happily slurping this. On one of our hives I was very surprised to see the queen on the candy as normally she'd be tucked away in the midst of the colony. She soon disappeared back into the hive but it was gratifying to see her, large and clearly healthy.
That period of balmy Spring weather was short-lived as soon enough we were plunged back into winter, with strong winds, lashings of rain and low temperatures. Not for the first time did I think how much I would hate to be a sailor in these conditions...! Checking the hives after a particularly stormy night, just to make sure that none had been blown over or hit by falling branches, I was concerned to see one of the lids had come off. The crown board had a centimetre or so of rain on it, but the bees were still busy inside the feeder as if nothing had happened. Phew!
The combination of good weather followed by a wet couple of weeks probably means that by the time the sun next appears the bees will be fed-up of being cooped up inside, so we have to be ready for potential swarms. We have bait boxes and spare hives ready, and hope that we won't lose any bees - fingers crossed that we'll be able to split the colonies before they beat us to it and decide for themselves. Watch this space!