My bees are bloody freezing.
It’s that time of year when you don’t even dare to open the top of the hive to see if they’ve got enough to eat. Like someone being shouted at for leaving the front door open, but much, much worse than that, you would just accidentally reverse months of them sealing up the gaps and warming the place up.
They gather in a big ‘ball’ around the queen, vibrating their flight muscles to create heat, but keeping their wings still; they take turns on the outside, like penguins, and move up to feed when they need it. It always amazes me that the lifespan of one of these winter bees can be up to about five months, whilst the busy summer bee has shredded itself and died of exhaustion with five or six weeks. The colony has naturally shrunk to about a tenth of its summer size by this point and still the queen does bugger all.
In about four weeks from now the she, we hope, will resume her laying, and by late May she will be putting down about 2000 eggs a day, unless Duncan and I mess it up again, and she dies or, worse still, shoves off with half the colony in a swarm. Until then, it’s a tough old life, and around 15% of hives in the UK will simply fail to make it through to the Spring. The way I look at it is that least they don’t have to listen to Talk Sport describing English batting collapses.
Social cricketers are a bit like bees, in a way, in that they are utterly useless between October and April, sit round in huddles trying to keep warm and gorge too much on sweet stuff. At least the bees don’t feel the need to wander off to the local sports shop and invest £180 in a new bat that only their dopamine neurotransmitters think will change anything at all; or call me at 11.00 on a Saturday morning to say that their hamster has just taken ill, and they won’t be able to come to play this afternoon’s game; or drop a complete sitter. That’s the thing about bees- they are basically reliable and competent.
February 1stis just over half way between the last White Hunter cricket match of the 2018 season (Catus, 30thSeptember) and the first one of the 2019 season (someone, somewhere, early May). Having toured in recent years to Derbyshire and south-west France, we are heading for Holland this season, wanting to test the theory that, if we fail to perform on one particular sort of grass, we will get the evening to redeem ourselves on another. We’re not sure if we will be in the EU, or out of it, by then, but either way we could do with the Irish backstop when they’ve finished with it to double up behind our useless wicket keeper, and save the extras.
As with all seasons when viewed from the previous winter, the sun will shine endlessly down onto parched pitches, catches will be taken as if routine and everyone will be satisfied with their place in the various batting orders; moreover, we will win 75% of our matches and I will average around 30, and score at least one half century and no one will complain about anything, ever. Hope and optimism are the currencies of our little team, and they will be until the last one of us is carted off to the care home.
Right now, the first snow of the winter is falling in our garden. Not much of it, but at least it’s a token effort in our warming world that we can look back on with nostalgia once summer is here again.
But right now, my bees are bloody freezing.