Too cold for a bee’s nose


Another fine day of sunshine and showers in London and it is hard to remember that just over a week ago a blanket of snow had fallen and transformed the city into a winter wonderland. The weekend that it snowed I had been caught in a wintry blizzard when walking in Wimbledon woods and froze these scenes on camera.

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The woodlands were part of a nature reserve with signs to indicate local species, including the green woodpecker. This inquisitive bird can live in an apiary for years before, one day, it learns that tasty treats of bee larvae and honeycomb may be found inside the hives.

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More on woodpeckers later…

The snow had lasted after the weekend until Monday. Those who made it into work enjoyed a lunchtime walk around Regent’s Park as the afternoon sunshine took a sideways slant through the trees.

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There was more to see than just snow – this tree has eyes!


And these pigeons huddled on top branches to keep warm.


And spying through the bushes on the penguins at London Zoo!


London has its own microclimate and by Tuesday the snow had left the inner city completely. In the meantime, a little visitor had landed at the apiary in search of food – woodpecker-bored holes were found on the side of one of the hives. Pat had found similar holes in his hives at Osterley a few weeks ago, so it appears that the woodpeckers are spreading the word.

While Pat and John had wrapped most of the hives in chicken wire, I paid an early morning visit before work to finish the job on our colony and the two that we are looking after for Clare and Charles. A few bees were curious to see what I was doing and poked their heads outside the entrance, but it was far too cold for their noses and they soon went back inside.


Emily had spotted snowdrops trying their hardest to grow through the hard ground a few weeks back. Not long now till spring.

Related links

Winter watch for bees

You may also be interested to read this bittersweet post by Daniel J Marsh on Death of a colony – a beekeepers loss. A stark reminder that January to March is when colony losses are often reported. You can also follow Daniel on Twitter: @danieljmarsh


20 thoughts on “Too cold for a bee’s nose

  1. You capture the magic of the winter landscape beautifully in your photos. I am happy to see the back of this snow, and look forward like the bees to a beautiful spring.

  2. Beautiful snow scenes…we rarely get them here. Colony losses January through March? Well, so far, mine are still flying. Fingers crossed. The next 3 days sun is forecast…can’t wait to get some photos.

    • Aw, look forward to seeing photos of your bees flying in sunshine, something we have missed here.

      Yes – January to March can be a difficult time for bees. In January and February their winter stores of honey are now starting to run low as they have been nibbling away on honey all winter. The queen may start to lay again in late December/early January and so new bees are gradually being born who will need rearing and feeding honey/pollen. So in the straight-run to spring, honey stores are getting lower, the colony is gradually increasing in size and there is not an abundance of crop for bees to forage yet. Also, the winter workers are getting old and tired and will soon die off, leaving the colony in the hands of new bees being born. It is a combination of circumstances that can make colonies more vulnerable at this time of year, so they need a careful watch for stores in particular. I think bees that are local (like ours) usually pull through winter ok because they have become acclimatised to the conditions. Yours sound like they are doing great! Hope that helps πŸ™‚

      • They were bringing in loads of pollen today…does that mean they are getting nectar too? Some bright orange, some neutral colors, and just a bit of yellow. I’m hoping that’s gorse. If I can get some video of bees foraging on gorse, I’ll write a blog about how the gorse got transplanted from Bandon, Ireland to Bandon, Oregon. I’ll be posting a you-tube video of the Warre hive through the observation window over the weekend. I’d be interested in what you have to say about it.
        I’m thinking about nadiring (adding an empty box) under the present brood box because of all the activity.
        btw, do you have a mouse screen over your entrances? I’ve been advised to place such a screen on the entrance.

      • We put mouse guards on the hives around end of September or when it starts to get chilly in autumn. As the colony is smaller and less active in autumn–winter to early spring, it is less able to defend itself and so the mouse guard helps to keep unwanted visitors away. Mice might try to get in for warmth, shelter and to eat honeycomb and generally make a mess for the poor bees to clean up! You can get mouseguards cheaply from suppliers like Thornes:

        Or some bees are clever enough to make their own propolised mouse guards! Emily posted about this photo sent by beekeeper Lois Carter – her clever bees had made their own mouseguard out of propolis!

        Hopefully, if they’re finding lots of pollen then they are finding nectar too, as flying out to forage pollen will require lots of energy (eating honey) and they’ll need to collect nectar replace what they are using. So again, it’s good to keep an eye on the weight and stores of the hives to make sure there is no risk of the colony becoming starved.

        Gorse honey sounds delicious, I’ll look forward to the video! Do send me a link to YouTube!

  3. The snowman on the bench is cute. You had a very pretty walk in the woods with the soft snow. Your photos show why I like the snow, there is so much beauty to be found, even on the simplest/most common of subjects. Very nice captures Emma. BTW… you would have loved St. Lucia, but I only saw about four bees the whole time I was there. They spray all over the island constantly, even at the five-star resort. Huge trucks with large hoses…. 😦

    • I would love to go to St Lucia one day – it’s on my list! Only four bees?! Perhaps they were on holidays… πŸ˜‰ Seriously though, shame about the hoses, although there seems to be increasing awareness and petitions circulating to ban pesticides. I hope governments take note of the importance of all insect pollinators.

      Thanks for the comments – it was snowing so hard in Wimbledon I wasn’t sure how the photos would come out. Shockingly, we stumbled across very anatomically correct snowmen – in rather compromising positions – which I can only describe as snow porn! Fortunately, the snow men of Regent’s Park were more respectable, although missing a few limbs by Monday.

      I love snow! πŸ™‚

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