Blackthorn Spring

08th May 2014


The blackthorns have gone over. For what seemed like an age they had cast their spell on the hedgerows. Black stems. Starry blossom. Every year, a different plant in the dale shines above all others. 2013 it was the dandelions. 2012, when our daughter was born, hawthorns stole the show. Will it be blackthorns in 2014?

A few weeks back, the blackthorn by the hive site was alive with bees. Now they have abandoned it, heading down into Pateley Bridge for the fruit trees there. To and fro they come, rushing up and down the field when I go out to visit them.

On Sunday, Don (a veteran beekeeper) and I did a spring inspection, checking the health and size of the three hives. They are all well, I'm glad to say. The largest hive barely minded their hive being taken apart. The smallest did all they could to sting us. I was glad to be with Don. Left to my own devices I might have been slow and clumsy. Instead we worked at a steady pace, leaving just as rain began to fall.

Last year, with three new colonies, it was easy. All I had to do was keep them fed, watch for disease and tuck them in for winter. Now the real business of beekeeping begins. Things will go wrong. I will make mistakes. Hives will swarm. There may be unexpected losses, or pests, a glut of honey or none at all. Keeping bees is as unpredictable as the plants of the dale. And these little creatures are as wild as nature herself. This is the joy of living here, with them.

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