A FIGURE in our paddock clad head to toe in white coverall and face obscured by masks, eerily mirrored the scenes on television screens of health professionals at work. Indeed my daughter Bryony, a GP, has sent us several images of herself in similar protective attire.

But John was not dealing with an invisible Covid-19 foe. He was protecting himself from some rather annoyed bees, objecting to their honey being taken from their hives. Additionally, John was checking for any queen cells. These are located in the brood chambers.

To stop the queen trying to get into the top of the hive and lay eggs there, John has put a queen excluder between the boxes where he wants his worker bees to store honey.

This means the skinnier worker bees can pass through the excluder, but not the much larger queen. I hope I have this all correct as I am not a bee expert, but do have to listen to a lot of phone conversations between John and his brother who is the family bee expert. I give the hives a wide berth as I don’t want to get stung.

Back to the focus of the activity which, by removing queen cells, prevents the hive from swarming to find a new home for the old queen. It’s rather like lockdown, I imagine. But checking through the hives has resulted in quite a glut of honey and Geoff came and took away surplus honey supers to spin off the honey at his house, where he has all the proper equipment. All following proper social distancing procedures, of course.

The reason John needed to cover up and pacify the bees with a smoker was because there was no need to get the bees any more agitated than necessary. Neither has he robbed the bees of all their honey, leaving plenty in the combs. He also put some empty comb back into the hives for the bees to continue storing honey.

Most of the homey from these hives will be from flowers on the oilseed rape in fields around us and the blackthorn blossom, flowering cherry and fruit trees in our village. My plum trees all bear distinct tiny plums and it will not be long now till I see my cherry and apple trees bearing fruit. Late frosts permitting.

It has been our normal practice to take the hives up onto the North York Moors in early August for the heather.

We have a farmer friend who is happy for the hives to come on their summer holidays. This also gives the bees plenty of opportunity to build up their winter reserves. Let’s hope that restrictions will be lifted and the bees will be allowed a late summer holiday.