Summer came back in October – the word had reached her of the ‘backwinter’. The bees made the most of the ‘backsummer’. The hive entrance was too busy to put on mouseguards as foragers flew home with baskets of yellow pollen.
However, a quick inspection showed that the nectar was out of stock. I filled the syrup feeders, and filled them five times again in October, and the bees drank up every last drop.
Since then I have been unable to visit the apiary and my husband John, my mum Ronnie, and Ealing beekeeper Thomas have put on mouseguards and fondant for winter.
In the garden, the salvia was pleasing a few late bumble bee queens, the orange buddleia was still blooming for the carder bees, and the spiders were trying to catch the last honeybees visiting the snowberry.
October is a good time for a garden tidy-up before the ground gets too wet or hard. John and I finished the weeding started in September, while John laid plastic sheeting and gravel over the most stubborn areas of weed, and I mulched the flower beds with soft bark chips and fallen leaves.
Gravelling and mulching may sound very unfriendly to bees, and other wildlife, but I’ve found that many bee-friendly plants will grow happily in-between and that slowing down the growth of weeds (without using chemicals) leaves more time for other wildlife -friendly activities. Such as emergency bee rescues.
John found a carder bee frozen still on the garden hose. I made her a warm nest for the night from rolled-up corrugated cardboard and put her in the shed. The next morning she had sugar water for breakfast before flying off.
Our ivy had only begun to flower at the end of October, but several bees were visiting. Who will be left to enjoy it?