‘”Well”, said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.’
A.A Milne – Winnie-the-Pooh
Last week the hive was full, full of bees, full of honey, and overflowing with brood (bee larvae). This was quite a shock to first time beekeepers like us as when the hive was last opened – at the beginning of April before a cold snap – it was still relatively quiet. Each comb was lifted from the hive for inspection. As we systematically moved towards the centre they became heavier and heavier – honey glistening inside. The bees seemed grumpier than usual – maybe they react like people to an overcrowded house. When a hive is full, an extra ‘super’ can be stacked on the top. The super acts as another storey to the hive so the bees have more room to store honey. We moved through the inspection quickly and when everything was back in place we added a ‘queen excluder’. The queen excluder has holes big enough for workers but not for the queen. This means she will only lay eggs on the first floor of their home leaving the top floor just for honey. We then added the new super. With the super in place, the girls can start collecting honey for the community gardens to sell in summer!
When the hive is back together the bees calm down – focussed on the continuous task of foraging – too busy to bother anyone nearby. Around the clearing where the bees live, the new undergrowth of spring has shot-up – lush, green, and shaded by the bramble hedges. In here it feels like a child’s den. The bees are hypnotic in their movement – their single-mindedness. The birds sing and when the sun peeps out nothing needs to change.
Though honey is a great draw to keeping bees – could it ever be as sweet as this perfect juxtaposition of activity and tranquillity our bees bring to the garden?