My darling Tim.
I think you were as sad as I was when I told you that all my colonies of bees had died. You loved to go and sit near them at the end of a long day, watching them flying in and out. Smiling at the shadows that made them look like incoming planes. Relaxing as they flew on their carefully charted courses.
We would sit and drink coffee and talk and watch the patterns in the sky that their tiny bodies made, and marvel at the amazing colours of the pollen on their back legs. You never liked honey but you loved my bees, and the pleasure they gave me.
You held me when I cried at the loss of the bees. Encouraged me to keep trying. Told me that you'd read that the second year is a hard one for beginning beekeepers. And made me promise to order a new colony, which I did. And that arrives next month.
But last month I got a surprise message. Someone from the High Peak bee group had a spare colony. And so a beekeeper friend came over from Sheffield to help me clear out the boxes, and see if we could work out what had happened.
It looks like the little swarm, the one I picked up from the allotment clinging to a gooseberry bush, was just too small to survive. The next colony along was isolation starvation, where they had got through the stores close by and had just been too cold, or not brave enough, to venture further. They were all clustered around their queen, trying to save her to the last. The third colony, where the rain and the storm had got in, had plenty of stores but had just got too chilled and wet. And the fourth colony – well, I'm just not sure. We couldn't see why. It could have been varroa. Or the cold. Or an infection. Or simply bad luck. It was a tough winter, this year.
I'm going to drive over to the High Peak tomorrow to pick up the colony in the little green nuc box. Drive home to the sound of gently buzzing bees, and put them in a new spot in the garden, to see if they will get better sun there.
I'm going to clean and paint the hives on the next warm day. Ready for the two new colonies. And take down two trees to give them more sun. I'm sorry. I know you loved trees, but I promise I will replace them with native trees full of flowers for the bees.
I couldn't tell the bees that you'd gone, because I'd lost them all over the winter. But I will tell the new colonies about you.
All my love
Writing short fiction, monologues and plays