July 17, 2024

A short article with the title “Looking after my bees in Lockdown 2020”.

Entrant ID:  1039690 Entrant Name:  Jesse Line
Entry:  Looking After My Bees in Lockdown
In early April 2020 I was informed that I was in a high risk category of serious health problems if I was infected by the Covid-19 virus. This brought about my concern for my bees which are located a distance from my home and would need regular attention during spring and summer. Although I was aware that it was allowable for me to leave home to tend to my bees, my closest family members and I were very anxious about the risks involved in leaving my home.
Thankfully my son in law, who had previously expressed an interest in beekeeping, offered to help if I could tell him exactly what to do if he took my place. So I wrote a page of instructions for each of the three hives that needed immediate attention (and added a few basic tips like wear a bee suit and don’t set fire to my shed!). Keeping the correct distance of 2m apart we went through my notes and then he set off on his own saying he would phone me if he needed any help. I waited for his call and to my surprise he came through on FaceTime on my iPad, he had set up his phone so I could see him inspect each hive. I was amazed at the audio and visual quality and ‘together’ we found that in my queen-less hive, which I had previously given a frame of fresh brood to, had now made a queen cell which had a larvae in it. The other two hives were both fine and the queens were both seen and as one of the hives had also made a queen cell we made up a six frame nuke and put in the frames with the queen cell, brood and stores.
This trial episode of remote beekeeping worked so well it was obvious that we had solved my beekeeping problems. Lucky for me my beekeeper stand-in enjoyed his experience and was happy to continue with this arrangement. I soon became confident in his ability to work to my instructions, he developed a calm and thorough method of us inspecting the hives together. We managed the bees in this enjoyable way, our swarm control was successful, we harvested 160lbs of honey, generated two new colonies and re-queened three hives.
Overall the whole activity gave us both great satisfaction. Our meetings prior to and after the regular real and virtual inspections were conducted with correct ‘social distancing’ which included actions to be taken and plans for the following inspections.
The use of the audio/video enabled us to successfully deal on the spot with any unforeseen problems and required actions.
After sixteen weeks of confinement I ventured out undertaking my responsibilities to my bees with my willing helper continuing to take a keen interest in his adopted/shared beekeeping hobby.
Result: rosette-gold


Entrant ID:  1038006 Entrant Name:  Colin Hall
Entry: Looking after my bees in Lockdown 2020

For many people, the Lockdown meant extreme difficulty and suffering in various forms.  It led to anxiety, depression and a great sense of isolation whether as an individual or a family, trapped in the home, with worries about job, future income, and of course the threat of becoming infected with the virus itself.

For this beekeeper, and perhaps many others, though we inevitably shared the collective experience, the Lockdown meant something utterly different.  For a start, I could be with my bees in the garden.  The crisis intensified my sense of wonder and connection with nature.

I spent more time just observing them: the comings and goings, the pollen loads, the explosive outpouring  of drones on a warm afternoon, the evening and overnight hum of nectar being processed – any aspect of bee behaviour and activity.  I reflected more.  I wanted to learn the craft, the science, much better.  In a sense the bees were looking after me, not the other way round.

The NBU had urged us to take greater care to control swarming.  As adults and children came out into neighbouring gardens, it became more difficult to find a really suitable time to inspect, and I contemplated surrounding my apiary with scaffold netting to force the bees upwards (recommended by a friend who kept his hives right in the middle of town), but the extraordinary sunny weather helping to maintain good temper made this unnecessary.

Most of my hives are in out-apiaries.   The NBU made clear from the start that bees are livestock and so must be looked after.  After some initial trepidation, what a sense of freedom and elation to travel along nearly traffic-free roads and empty country lanes, with a sign on the dashboard if challenged: “BEEKEEPER AT WORK – allowed activity”.  Not that I was ever stopped or questioned – or even saw a police officer.   I seemed to have the countryside to myself.  Isolated entirely from people, but intensely in the company of up to 50,000 other little beings at any one time.

That was in the earlier stages of the Lockdown.  Suddenly there were cohorts of cyclists along those country lanes.  Suddenly the public had discovered the countryside, especially around bluebell time.  People everywhere, oblivious of rights of way and KEEP OUT signs.  I was intent upon checking a hive when suddenly a whole family group, lightly clad, was almost next to me.

Honey sales doubled during the Lockdown.  There was more interest than ever in bees and the value of local honey.  One great pleasure was to take three friends beekeeping, each new or newish to it, on separate occasions, of course.  We performed a dance almost around the hive in staying socially distanced, but because of the situation I more quickly came to trust them to do the looking after, as they manipulated brood frames and supers, with me coaching them through it.

Accelerated Lockdown Learning, it seemed.

Result:  –


Entrant ID: 1043584 Entrant Name:  Jenny Higham
Entry: A short article with the title “looking after my bees in Lockdown 2020”

Beekeeping for me started less than three years ago so I still rely on other beekeepers to know what to do in situations I’ve not encountered, as well as enjoying the support from the Priory Marina group. Lockdown meant I was going to have to manage better on my own and be more resourceful.

This year I wanted to increase the number of hives I had to 10. I registered on the swarm collector list and despite many areas in England having problems maintaining social distance, I didn’t have any trouble when I arrived wearing a bee suit. 1043584-8aIt’s funny but no-one wants to stand next to you when you have a suit, smoker and there’s a swarm of bees resting nearby!

You Tube and telephone consultations with other very experienced beekeepers helped me carry out an artificial swarm and merge two hives using the newspaper method so my queen-less hive gained strength.

Without the school commute, I gained extra time during the weeks my children engaged in remote learning, and extra helpers to spin the two frame centrifuge. We enjoyed more time to work together without the rugby matches, afterschool clubs and homework!

We grew bee friendly flowers such as cosmos, zinnia and sunflowers from seed and watched as other types of bees visited the garden. We watched as bees made their home in our bee hotel; maybe if I’d known it would work I wouldn’t have placed it above our backdoor!!

1043584-8bPerhaps best of all were the telephone calls to my Granny aged 91. She can’t see well enough to read letters now, so we ring her and give her updates on Grandpa’s bees. (My first hive was bought in his memory). COVID stopped her helping out the “elderly” at WRVS luncheon club (yes, even at 91 she was a helper rather than a guest!) so we hoped our beecalls helped her feel less isolated.

To plant a seed is to have hope for the future. Beekeeping to us evoked the same feeling during a challenging time.

Result: rosette-blue


Entrant ID:  1042567 Entrant Name:  Gill Brewer
Entry: Looking after my bees in Lockdown 2020

April 2020, a few weeks into lockdown: No unnecessary journeys, shopping only for food and medication and going out for just an hour of daily exercise. Exceptions for key workers, and thankfully, beekeepers.
Time to visit my out apiary: First swap cars; with working from home we’re alternating cars to make sure neither gets a flat battery. Load my kit box, fill my water bottle, and take the NBU document “COVID 19 and Beekeeping” just in case I get stopped by the police. The roads are so quiet. Park in the lane and wait for a dog walker to pass to a safe distance before getting out. Sanitise my hands, open the gate and walk down through the orchard. See my landlady and we stand, an unnatural distance apart, talking. Our questions, “How are you?”, are no longer just polite, but suddenly hold real meaning. We’re both well and have managed to buy enough food. The shops are filling up again after the panic buying, but supermarkets are limiting customers to three of any one item. I have been shopping for us and my elderly Mum who is self-isolating. I’ve been putting three bags of sugar for the bees through the till with our groceries and another three with Mum’s. I continue walking down past the pond to the apiary. Zip up my suit and pull on a pair of latex gloves. The box is half empty, but the pharmacy cannot get any, there is great demand from hospitals and care homes. I’m already hot in my bee-suit in the sun, but it’s only one day a week for me. Pity those NHS workers in full PPE working 12-hour shifts. I must remember to Clap for Carers at 8pm on Thursday.
The apiary is humming with flying bees. Light my smoker thinking how fast colonies have built up in this beautiful spring weather. Check the entrances, all taking in pollen, some with tell-tale yellow faces from oilseed rape. The Bailey comb change set up two weeks ago, now full of beautiful straight, pale combs, packed with eggs and larvae. What marvellous engineers honeybees are! I remove the feeder and add a queen excluder and super. Next week the remaining brood in the bottom box will have emerged and I can destroy the old combs. The next colony has the first downy drones, a prerequisite for swarming, but no queen cells yet. Now a careful look through that colony where I haven’t seen the queen this year… There! An unmarked queen, long and dark with gingery legs, they have superseded. Slip the Baldock cage from my pocket and mark her. Work through more colonies, first supers getting heavy, so I add another, imagining a good harvest. When I’ve finished, plug the smoker, repack my kit box, stand up and stretch my back. Suddenly I remember, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic.
Beekeeping in lockdown…? It’s the most wonderfully engrossing distraction!

Result: rosette-red