Gardening around bees
I was having a conversation with my bees this morning. I was doing all the talking, needless to say, but I could tell from their body language what they were saying in reply. It was like when you go into your teenage son or daughter's room and ask them if those T-shirts on the floor need washing, or if they are ever going to pick up that plate with the pizza crust on it. That "It's fine, Mum, just leave it" look.
The bees have come through the winter well, thanks to the mild weather. At the first sign of sunshine, they are out and about, foraging among their favourite flowers. Hellebores are high on this list, as is any kind of prunus blossom. They also love euphorbia.
Anyway, having sorted out the bees (I was putting supers on for honey), I still had my bee-suit on so I thought I'd do a bit of tidying around the apiary, if that isn't too grand a name for three hives. There was a huge flower spike on the phormium left over from last year, which was annoying me, and the buddleia needed cutting back, and there was a bit of weeding to be done.
Bees don't recognise the need for weeding. It is entirely a human concept as far as they are concerned. I tried to explain that they wouldn't be best pleased if the buddleia shaded out the hive entrance, or the weeds overwhelmed anything that was likely to flower in the next three months. They weren't convinced. "It's fine, Mum, just leave it!"
In the end, I took myself off with various hive parts that needed cleaning, and consoled myself with scrubbing them in the kitchen sink.
Having bees in your garden can be a bit of a pain, to be honest. I've learned to wear a hat if I'm mowing or working anywhere near their flight path, because although they are supposed to be so smart, they occasionally fly right into my hair.
They always decide to swarm just as a group of visitors arrives to see the garden and head for the top of the highest, nearest tree, so everyone can see what a useless beekeeper I am. I then get phone calls from my neighbour, saying: "Your bees are swarming again, Victoria. Doesn't that mean they haven't got enough room?"
I used to have my hives in the paddock behind my house, which is owned by my neighbours. It seems an idyllic spot in theory, but a local farmer puts his sheep in there, and sheep and bees are not a good mix. The sheep use the hives as a scratching post, and knock them over in the process. An inquisitive sheep or lamb can push a hive out of kilter just by nosing around, and sheep are incredibly nosy.
On the other hand, since I've had my bees in my garden, they seem really happy. That's the whole point, surely. "It's fine, Mum, just leave it."