Beehives in the Fields

Bees in January?

As you would probably imagine, as someone who has a blog about outdoor pursuits, I spend quite a bit of time out in the countryside, walking and cycling, and have done for quite a few years now. Up until about 2 years ago I had never seen a beehive, however in the last 2 years, or particularly last year, I saw loads. They say honeybees are in decline, but looking at the number of hives which are dotted around the countryside, I find that quite hard to believe.

bees flyingI saw some the other day in the corner of a farmers field. I suppose the hives are usually hidden from view in the summer, as there are a few bushes and long grass around them, but at this time of year, they can be seen quite clearly. So never having seen one up close, I rode over to take a look.

They were strange old things, not the straw skeps which you see in books, but polystyrene hives, they were a kind of green colour, but definitely looked like they were made of polystyrene, or some kind or artificial plastic, in fact when I first got over to them I thought it was just a load of old packing crates, I couldn’t get right up close as there was a fence around them, well, I could have but didn’t want to because as I got close I realised that the bees were coming and going from a couple of the weird looking polystyrene hives, (there were a couple of wooden ones too, but there was no activity from those) I’m pretty sure they are honeybees as they were obviously being looked after and I don’t think any other type of bees make honey, so there is no reason for a beekeeper to home or care for them.

The thing I found strange about that is that why would honeybees be flying around in the winter time? They live on the nectar from flowers, and I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but there are definitely no flowers around here in January, surely they know that! It was a fairly warm day, but I would have expected them to have been in hibernation, or whatever bees do for the winter, as they are really just wasting their time flying around, they certainly won’t find any food.

Now, I do know that bees swarm to split their colony and create a new one, but swarming is in the summer, I only know that because a friend had a swarm settle in a tree in his garden when I was a kid, we watched the beekeeper cut the branch off and take them away, great fun as a kid, but it was definitely summer as we were in t-shirts and playing in the garden when his dad spotted them.

Anyway, why are there suddenly so many hives about?  I’d love to know if anyone can tell me why this is. I must have seen about 20-30 hives in January so far, although I suppose to be fair, the scrub is all down and I have been out walking and cycling more than usual, due to the particularly nice weather we’ve been having. Perhaps there are more beekeepers around than there used to be too.