The honeybees built the comb with bright yellow beeswax this summer and filled cells with vibrant orange-yellow pollen. Emily and I imagined that our bees had been visiting sunflowers.
The weeks have since flown by and Emily has now moved to Cornwall. After almost seven years of keeping bees together, I shall miss my hive-partner-in-crime very much, but I will continue to follow Emily’s adventures in beeland as she discovers the bees and wildlife of the west country.
Meanwhile back in London, the sunflowers are in full bloom in our garden.
The sunflowers were a gift from the garden of John’s aunt and uncle, Jo and Brian, who live in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. We had visited them earlier in the summer for the Hay-on-Wye Festival and came home not only with books but sunflower seedlings and a rowan tree sapling.
Today I caught a carder bee on the sunflower – her face full of pollen.
Summer has turned into autumn and the bees are busy foraging for every last drop of nectar and dusting of pollen that the garden has to offer.
The gardener’s year, I think like the beekeeper’s year, begins in September. The honeybees clear out the nest by throwing out the drones and the queen lays fewer eggs as the brood nest becomes smaller with more space instead for winter stores. In the garden, it is a good time of year to clear out weeds and prune back overgrown plants to make space for what you will grow next summer.
This was the first weekend that I have had free from work for a couple of months, and the sun has been shining. I made a start in the garden by pulling up the weeds around the apple tree and working the soil into a fine crumble ready to scatter the toadflax seeds.
A toadflax meadow had sprung up between the gravel this summer, but the flowers were now fading and the seed pods beginning to burst open. I moved as many of the toadflax as I could from the gravel to the apple tree bed and into large containers to let the seeds fall where I want the flowers to grow next year.
The apple tree bed is prone to weeds, but toadflax seedlings are easy to recognise (see above) with their narrow spiral of pale-green leaves and are less likely to be weeded out by mistake.
The carder bees buzzed around me as I moved the toadflax that was still flowering to the containers and then inspected my work to make sure it matched their standards.
I uncovered some slugs and snails, and moved them to another patch of weeds that I plan on tackling next weekend. They can munch on these in the meantime.
While I was moving this snail, I noticed that she had a little hitchhiker on her back. Mum and baby are now happily eating up my bindweed, I hope.
That done, I left the garden to go indoors. It wasn’t long before John called me outside again. He had been mowing the lawn and spotted a rare visitor perched on the roof.
We stood on the decking to take photos of the heron who looked unimpressed with the cage around the fish pond.
And then he was off!
Everything ends and starts again in autumn. As Emily and I move on to our new adventures – from bees in Cornwall to wildlife gardens in Ickenham – I hope that we will always be inspired by the natural world around us and that our paths will one day cross again beside the hives.