So the swarming season is in full swing and any colony of honeybees that has an old queen or wants to multiply is now looking for new places to swarm to and colonise. It’s that perfect combination of heat, light and moisture that affects all beings in different ways. My fellow beekeeper Steven and I have tentatively welcomed two colonies in to the Lewes churchyard near my house. One is an artificial swarm: frames with queen cells from my colony in the woods and lots of unhatched brood and worker bees to support the emergent queen. It will take a month before we know the queen bee has hatched successfully and then flown out and mated with the 5-15 drones hanging out in the ‘drone congregation area’ high above the land and then returned and started to laying - half her bodyweight in eggs in one day.
The other colony was a swarm clustered on a wall along the Winterbourne seasonal river last night. They’d been there for at least a day and were unusually tired, hungry and aggressive. I got a sting to my ankle, which has swollen up. But Steven got the bees in to the box and then in to his top bar beehive. When I looked yestarday many of them had died – of starvation. I fed them syrup to try to save the rest – assuming there was a queen –and today they are flying in and out quite purposefully, but it will be a month before we know whether both queens have survived and their larvae are hatching.
I am starting to form a relationship with the bees. I visit them and ‘tune in’ to their energy – sometimes I sit and hum and sometimes I just sit. Ever since my scrape with death I just don’t care how that sounds. My hair is growing back now the chemotherapy is over and I have dared to expose my head to the sun and other people – which has been really liberating. I suppose that after a certain amount of life experience, or surviving a serious illness, you can either batten down the hatches and live within your comfort zone, or just let go of, or leap over, self-limiting inhibitions and boundaries and feel an intense freedom. I love being around people who embody that freedom, and here’s a video of someone else who seems to know a thing or two.