a french garden

Water, water everywhere

16 Comments

Since last week it has been raining more and the field behind the garden is covered in water.  You should just be able to see the hives in the background, of the photograph.

Looking in the exactly same direction but further back, a second field is also completely flooded.

Fields on the other side are much the same.  In fact, any low land the Seudre flows past in this area has been flooded.  A lot of the land in this area was marsh land so it is not so unusual.  It is just these areas have been much drier in the past forty years.

The rain has kept me out of the garden but the bees have always taken the opportunity of the mild temperatures and any sunshine to get out of their hives.

We had five hives at the end of the summer.  Pissenlit was the smallest and we reduced her to six frames, hoping she would thrive on the ivy in the autumn.  She seemed less and less active until at the beginning of December we opened her to find no bees.  The frames of honey were there but no bees and no signs of disease.  She was a large swarm that had come to our apricot tree in the front garden on 31 May this year.  She had built up quite well but did not keep up with her original energy.

Our next disappointment was when we opened the Poppy hive for the winter oxalic acid treatment on 16 December and found the hive empty.

This was a surprise as she had gone into winter as our largest and busiest hive.  We have had the Poppy hive from 2015 and she has swarmed and re-queened every year.  We had noticed in the past couple of weeks that she was not so busy but we were not too concerned.

Once again, there were no signs of disease and there were plenty of stores of honey and pollen.

I will add a close up of the same frame, so that you can see the different colour of pollen as well as honey that they had stored..

The few bees we found at the bottom of the hive were all perfect with no wing malformations.

There were never any large number of dead bees in front of the hive.  It was just empty and we feel that the emptying must have taken place relatively rapidly as we watch our hives regularly.

Moving onto a happier note, we have now three large bushes of winter flowering honeysuckle near the hives and they are soon popular with the bees when the rain stops.

The Mahonias, Charity and two Media, are all flowering and much appreciated by the bees.

The Eriobotrya japonica or Loquat has even more perfumed flowers and that attracts the bees too.  This tree would be hardy in most places in the UK but I do not recall seeing it.  You would be unlikely to get fruit in the UK but I highly recommend it for its perfume.

Our Viburnum tinus on the fence is full of buds and the bees will not have long to wait until the flowers open.

In fact, some of the flowers lower down have already opened.

These plants are very easy to propagate if you cut off some roots from a large plant.  We are hoping to have a few more on the road side and we were very pleased to see these cuttings thrive and start to flower this year.

I finish this post marveling at the optimism of this white tailed bumble bee.  In the UK the bumble bee queens are supposed to snuggle down and rest/hibernate until the spring allows them fine enough weather to start making their nest and their colony.  This white tailed bumble bee has pollen on her hind legs so I can only assume she has started her nest and is raising her young.

The rain is against her but I hope she finds enough nectar and pollen in the garden to raise at least some worker bumble bees to help her find food and to keep them warm.

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

16 thoughts on “Water, water everywhere

  1. You continue my Bee education. Thanks. Pray you have a Blessed Christmas and a marvelous New Year. Stay dry!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Seasons Greetings, Saddened to hear of the loss of two of your hives. I know it must have been a blow to you as one gets so attached to their activity and company.
    All the best, thank you for your posts.
    Regards Janine
    BC Canada

    Like

  3. You live in a magical place! Flowers! In December! I look out over the snow…and wait. So sorry, though that your bees absconded. With two hives doing so, one has to wonder whether they sensed some threat that made a cold-season relocation necessary. Those Asian hornets, perhaps?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A lot of rain in Brittany and no sunny spell, as I can see on your photo. We are desperate for some light.
    The loss of your beehives is a very sad news, but can you accuse the Asian hornet ? I doupt it, but what else ?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello Amelia,
    Very sorry to hear about the bee losses – In such circumstances one wonders where have all the bees gone, particularly when the stores look so plentiful, and the weather though wet has been mild? Part of the inevitable challenge and disappointment of beekeeping though I guess.
    I do hope your other hives survive in spite of all the wet – at least you still seem to have weather windows for the bees to fly – no such luck here of late!
    I’ll look out for bees on the Viburnum tinus though, which Fiona planted a couple of years back.
    Happy Christmas to you both and look forward to hearing from your garden in 2020,
    Julian

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whatever happened to Poppy happened very rapidly. She was the strongest colony going into winter and we only noticed her getting quiet about two weeks before we opened her for the treatment. The V.tinus is a good source of polen and nectar for your bees, you’ll be happy you planted it. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Endless rain here too and everything sodden. Sorry to hear about your empty hives. Does this mean they swarmed? I have lots of ivy which the bees seem to enjoy.

    Like

    • It is too late in the season and cold and rainy for bees to swarm. Ivy is such a valuable food for all the pollinators and is good to watch the flowers in the autumn sunshine, when it is sunny. Amelia

      Like

  7. Did your empty hives have any brood at all? If so, that would imply the entire hive absconded with their queen – rare to abandon a good hive but it does happen. If there was no brood it could be there was a requeening by the hive but the new queen didn’t successfully mate. With no replacement queen the bees would have slowly died off with no new bees to take their place. In the end some may have begged their way into viable hives so you may have kept some of the bees, but not the hive. It is sad to lose a hive no matter the reason but I’m always curious to try to figure out what happened to a colony.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always like to try and have an idea. There was no brood left. I am sure there was not a swarm as the weather has been so rainy now for too long. Also there were no queen cells. Possibly the queen died but she had requeened early in the year. Amelia

      Like

  8. Here the mahonia is the favourite winter flower and on sunny days there are honeybees and buff-tailed bumblebees collecting pollen and nectar. I havent seen any bees on winter honeysuckle yet.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Dominique Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s