Snowmageddon

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As temperatures in Sydney, Australia soared to a record-breaking 45.7˚C this week, my ex-pat friends complained that they were missing the snow in England. Holly Galt tweeted: ‘Ah London, you are making me so homesick! Love a good snow day. #Snowmageddon’ @hollygalt

The snow hadn’t yet arrived, but as Holly is from 12 hours in the future it was possible she knew something that I didn’t. And on Friday the snow arrived.

My work’s Medicinal Garden looked very pretty in the snow.

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However, as nice as it looked around Regent’s Park, I didn’t want to sleep at my desk overnight, so we all left early while the trains and buses were still running. I enjoyed a snowy walk home through Northolt Village.

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On Saturday morning I awoke to find Narnia outside my window and temperatures around 0°C. Positively balmy! Being one of the few beekeepers insane enough to prove that we can still have our tea and cake on a Saturday afternoon – even in snow, I arrived at the apiary not surprised to find a small crowd.

I found Emily, Stan and Albert doing some detective work having found evidence of bird footprints in the snow on hive roofs and a suspicious dent in the wood of John’s hive. Could it be that an Ealing woodpecker has discovered the tasty treats inside our hives?

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Emily and I checked on our bees next. The hive is still quite heavy with stores, although they have eaten a large hole in the fondant. This allows us to observe the colony in winter and see that the bees look healthy and are active. A few workers were light coloured and fuzzy, they might be new bees if the queen started laying again in late December.

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By now my body temperature was around -1°C, so we went to join John and the boys huddled around the kettle and Emily’s delicious jam cake.

Snow is forecast to return on Sunday, while the sun continues to shine in Sydney. As Holly would say, I know where I’d rather be. #London #snow

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25 thoughts on “Snowmageddon

      • Thanks for the pictures etc. When I saw the yellow flowers covered with snow I recognised something that I had been unable to identify for some time. We saw it in flower in unsnowy Devon in Dartington Hall Gardens last week and had seen it last year as well and wondered what it was. Thanks to afrenchgarden I now know it is Hamamelis (Witch Hazel).
        While we were looking last week a Goldcrest turned up and skittered around the trees.

      • I am not good at identifying plants so it is great to get some help! I never realised that witch hazel was so delicate- and exotic-looking, really pretty. Skittering around the trees in Goldcrest sounds like a nice way to spend an afternoon!

  1. Pingback: Beekeepers in the snow | Adventuresinbeeland's Blog

  2. I love your photos of snow – note I said I love photos, no way do I want to be in a place that cold. It’s actually cloudy today in Sydney, thank God! We broke a record for the hottest day on Thursday and now we’re all loving a bit of cool, cloudy weather. I always thought bees preferred sun to clouds but I can tell ya, they are flying like crazy today and on Thursday they we not leaving the hive except to collect water.

    What’s the deal with that bee photo? Does that plastic sheet cover the inside of the hive? How could you tell they still had stores? By weight of the box or did you actually lift out frames? Didn’t that shock/kill bees? Sorry, I have no idea how to keep bees in snow (and I suspect I’ll never get any first hand experience).

    • Bees do love the sun, although when it is very hot they have to work hard to cool the hive – by fanning for ventilation.

      The bees in the photo are walking inside the bag of sugar fondant that we put over the holes in the crownboard. To view, we only need to lift the roof not lift the hive, so the bees are not disturbed and don’t get cold. We leave our bees honey for overwinter but also put on the fondant so it is there if they choose to use it, and if they do then it provides a useful ‘window’ to see how they are doing.

      To check stores we ‘heft’ the hive slightly by putting one hand under the floor and testing the weight of the hive. Also we check how fast they are eating the fondant and make sure there is a another bag if they need it.

      January to March is the time when the colony, even a strong one, may be most vulnerable because they are coming to the end of their winter stores, the winter bees are getting old and tired and will soon die, and new bees are hatching that need food and warmth. It is a precarious balance – anything might tip the edge.

      Our bees are rarely shocked – they are quite a chilled out bunch! Thanks for visiting :)

      • I don’t envy you and your bees the next couple of months. Lucky for your bees you make sure they have enough food even if they didn’t store it on their own. I know in the UK it can be hard in bad years (like last summer) to collect enough nectar. On balance, I’m sure bees would prefer the occassional work out to fan the hive and keep it cool.

      • I’m sure eating their own honey is best for the bees although they do seem to get excited when we put on fondant; perhaps it’s like kids being told they have to eat their greens but really they want sweets! ;)

  3. I know woodpeckers can damage and get into hives, but so far our woodpeckers don’t seem interested in the hives. Enjoyed the pics of Northolt.Village – it looks like a lovely place.

  4. Pingback: Too cold for a bee’s nose | Miss Apis Mellifera

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