Nice to see you girls

This being our first year as beekeepers, I entered winter with some trepidation.  We were told that during the four to five months of winter the queen bees stop laying eggs and the bees stay mostly in their hives in a tight bunch to stay warm and economise their precious stock of honey.

Even by the standards of this region of France, our winter has been so far very mild and there has not been a single week that the bees have not been in and out of their hives at least for a short period during the sunny days.

There is evidently plenty of pollen on the gorse less than a kilometer from our house,

Honey bee on gorseand our Viburnum tinus is still in full flower.

Viburnum TinusI decided to place a rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) from a pot into the corner of the new rockery.  The bees could hardly wait.

Rosmarinus officinalis

The back lawn (well it’s hardly a lawn) is now full of speedwell (veronica)  in flower and the bees appear interested by those too.


Last week, on 24th of January 2016, the sun shone all day and the temperature for most of the day was around 17 degrees C (nearly 63F).  Our girls were really busy.  You can see the entrance of our Sunflower Hive in this short clip.

It is lovely to see you, girls, and I am dying to open up the hive for a quick inspection, and see how much brood your queen has made.  But I must have patience.  It is too early!



32 thoughts on “Nice to see you girls

  1. It is hard waiting to see the bees and take a proper look at them! Even in a normal, less freakishly warm winter, I’d be surprised if your queens stopped laying for 4-5 months though. In London the bees are most likely to be broodless during December and early January, after which laying picks up again. But perhaps your local bees behave differently. Lovely that they are doing so well!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Emily. Our 4 hives are different from each other. Obviously bees are crossed and here there are buckfast varieties as well as black bees that we have in one hive. As you know each hive behaves differently. Early this morning I placed a new 2.5 kilogram bar of candy on Poppy as she had eaten hers completely. Two of the hives have not touched their candy. All 4 hives have been very busy bringing pollen almost every day. I assume that her majesty (ies) is busy laying eggs.
      Like Amelia, I love reading about your experience and I wish you and the girls all the best. – Kourosh


    • Your comment made both Amelia and I laugh. Just the thought of going to the hive with a stethoscope! Sounds a great idea.
      I wonder if I can buy a cheap endoscope and have a quick peek between the frames?
      As for the flowers and blooms, our plum tree buds have just started to open up. I do worry somewhat as we can still can have a snap of cold weather and freeze during February. That would destroy the fruits, etc.
      Meanwhile, we do work hard in the garden and enjoy the mild weather. _ Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was all excited about the stethoscope idea. These long winter months with no indication of how the bees are doing, make me just a little crazy. But Rick gave me a look, “Just how would you use a stethoscope with all that insulation?” Oh, course, he’s right. To help the bees survive the cold we’ve wrapped the hives tightly with rigid insulation, which would make it impossible to hear little bee noises. Today is expected to be warm, maybe even in the 40s. Then it’ll drop back down into deep winter. It would be nice to see some bees take a mid-season cleansing flight, so I asked Rick to dig down in the snow, to clear them an opening, just in case.

        Otherwise, we’ll have to stick with our current method of detection, whether there’s a re-frozen layer of moisture on top of the top insulation. Clustering bees put off heat and moisture. So far, it looks as though the bees are still alive.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Long may they live in peace and their own hive’s warmth. I am told that a strong colony on the middle of their hive can retain temperature above 30 degrees centigrades (0ver 80F) even in winter. So keeping them huddled is, I suppose, the best thing for them. I think you – like me – need just to have patience and keep fingers crossed. – Kourosh

          Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the comment. Amelia and I try to leave our “garden” as natural as possible. Even when I mow the back garden I leave large patches of ground uncut covered with daisy and yellow ‘cat’s ears’ for the pollinators. We don’t use any chemical pesticides either. We are deep in the country and many ‘weeds’ are just another flower for me.
      – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

    • The US has had another unusual weather pattern this years. from what we have seen in the news. It reminded me of the period we lived near Niagara Falls. We had so much snow that year that for one week there was a $100 fine if one left the house with car – so many cars we abandoned in the middle of the roads.
      Here our winter has been nearly non-existent. Yesterday, Amelia and I ate lunch on the terrace in warm sunshine. – Kourosh


    • Thanks for sharing your experience. I understand all the talk about the climate change, at the same time, I feel we are in a climatic cycle which happens every 10 years or so. Here in France we appear to have a very hot summer every 5 -10 years (40+ centigrade or over 100F). Then we have mild winters for several years.
      Like you, I do worry about a possible freeze in February which could destroy all the blossoms.
      Meanwhile let us enjoy the mild winter! – Kourosh


    • There sure is a risk. I placed what we call candy (2.5 Kilogram bars). Two of the hives have well eaten it whereas the other two have not touched it – presumably they have enough honey in stock (or may be the others are like greedy children!!).
      Normally if the weather is cold they stay in the hive and conserve energy and need less food. With this mild weather they fly in and out a lot and hence use a lot of energy. – Kourosh


  2. Viburnum tinus continues to intrigue me. In the UK it flowered from September or October through to March/April reliably every year. Mine here is full of tightly closed buds with only a tiny number breaking open. It doesn’t seem to depend on temperature so maybe it has something to do with light levels. Mine often doesn’t open until late spring and then is over in a flash.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Christina
      Thanks for sharing your experience with Viburnum
      Viburnum tinus appears to be in so many different varieties, as you have noted. When we bought our house in France there was another large Viburnum tinus in the front garden. It looked the same as the one we have now, but the flowers of that other one had a really nasty smell and Amelia ‘ordered’ me to cut it down. She was right, of course.
      The flowering period of the various varieties of Viburnum tinus is also so different. The one we have seems to be all year round in flower. However, when the bees have the choice of other flowers in summer like gaura, they leave Viburnum alone. Now the choice is limited and they are all over our Viburnum. – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting that the bees are visiting the speedwell flowers …and indeed that it’s in flower already – presumably way ahead of normal? We have masses of speedwell around the garden, but it doesn’t flower until much later, and any honeybees around then almost never visit the flowers …presumably out of preference for other flowers which around at the same time. Or maybe just because they’re Welsh bees and have different tastes???

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for the comment. You are absolutely correct that the bees are quite selective (choosy!). Just now we do indeed have a lot of speedwell in flower. However, In summer when there is lots of other choice they ignore flowers like speedwell. Actually they love dandelion flower. At this time the dandelion is in flower, but only here and there.
      It is funny that you talk about your Welsh bees. My limited experience has shown me that certainly different colonies of bees do have different habits and different tastes – but what do expect of a bunch of noisy girls!
      By the way, your garden seems absolutely ideal for bees. – Kourosh


    • Thank you for sharing your observations.
      Rosemary and lavender are two of my favourite flowers. The bees are certainly very fond of both. Personally I also have planted borage which self seeds all over the garden and the vegetable patch. The flowering period is much longer – indeed there are some in flower even now – and the bees and the bumble bees love them. If anything it is richer in nectar than lavender – and I love to add the pretty flowers of borage to summer salad. – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Here in New Cairo the temperature has easily reached a single figure on several days this month, and there have been days with no sun, just wind, dust and occasional rain. With those exceptions, our bees have been out and about a good deal: top favourite flowers (pretty much year round) are Egyptian basil, which is much stronger than sweet basil; rocket; rosemary; coriander; thyme; rose; broad bean.
    But the bees do suffer in the winter, and I quite often find my little friends struggling on cold balcony tiles, or lying exhausted on wooden furniture outside. I give them a hand up and hope they will recover with some sunshine.
    Long may your bees thrive!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I recall some years ago I used to visit Cairo regularly on business. Your winters were certainly chilly. Cairo and Alexandria were among my favourite places in the Middle East and North Africa.
      Thanks for commenting on the Egyptian basil. I love basil and must try to see if I can get hold of any seeds. It should do well here in France.
      Funny you should comment about the bees suffering. Lately I have visited the front of the hives and have found one or two bees apparently dead. The fly out and then get caught in rain and become cold.
      I have lifted them gently, brought them indoors. Even during my walk from the back of the garden, I have noticed that the warmth of my palm has made them move. Indoors I have let them get a little warm and then fed them a small drop of honey and half an hour later returned them home all buzzing with energy.
      I shall pass on your good wishes to our little girls. Thanks – Kourosh


    • I visited the house of our beekeeper friend, Michel and his bees are also very busy. We just need to make sure that all that activity and spending energy, has left them enough honey to last them until the real flush of Spring.
      Certainly some beekeepers – I have heard – have become so happy that their bees have survived the winter, only seeing a few weeks later that the colony has just died of starvation. That is the big danger. I leave them a bar of candy (2.5 Kilogram) just in case. – Kourosh


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