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Honey, Honey Bees, Latin Literature, Swarms, Virgil

And there were bees…

This spring and summer. You would be forgiven for thinking “what about the bees? wasn’t this blog about the bees?” In the same manner my husband keeps asking “what about the Latin? wasn’t this blog about Latin?”

Post, ubi iam thalamis se composuere, siletur
in noctem fessosque sopor suus occupat artus.
Nec vero a stabulis pluvia impendente recedunt
longius aut credunt caelo adventantibus Euris,

sed circum tutae sub moenibus urbis aquantur,
excursusque breves temptant et saepe lapillos,
ut cumbae instabiles fluctu iactante saburram,
tollunt, his sese per inania nubila librant.
(P. Vergilious Maro, Georgicon. Book IV. JB Greenough, ed

So that’s the husband done. Now for the rest of you:

So, yes, there were and are bees. They came out of the winter pretty much unscathed and raring to go.


Above, what I used to call the main hive at the bottom of the garden. Below, the garage bees, now the bigger, more productive hive.


As usual, the bees are found at most of the watering spots in the garden. They are not above harassing any bird looking for a drink. They like the rock pool, especially those stones covered in moss.

Bees on moss summer 2019


And, there were swarms. This year, they favored the contorted or corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellane ‘contorta’) on the other side of the garden. They were quite considerate in gathering on the lower branches, making collection relatively easy.

Swarm2 2019

Nice primary swarm here.


Swarm May 2019

Unfortunately, I was not on hand to see the beginnings of the two swarms. So I cannot be sure which hive they came from. I do feel relatively confident in saying that tat nice big primary swarm came from the garage bees, as they are much the bigger hive.

But the mystery is where the heck the swarm below came from, when they swarmed, and if they were a breakaway from a main swarm or a swarm all on their own. The two swarms happened in May. But I have no idea about this lot, which I discovered in our holly tree some time in July. Obviously, they hadn’t just swarmed: look at that beautiful comb,


The problem was their location: in an awkward spot, requiring a tall standalone ladder or a long lopper. In the time it took for me to try to source someone with the proper equipment, the weather had changed, becoming cold, windy and wet. By the time normal summer weather resumed, they were gone.


On a slightly happier note, we last examined the hives at the beginning of September and were able to pull off a good amount of honey (for us) for the second year in a row. We have ordered more honey equipment, and with the handy dandy new comb tool I got from Jo for my birthday, we should be a little more professional this year.

On a slightly less happier note, our girls who are normally so placid are now bearing a grudge for the honey robbery. So, looks like I’ll have to wait for the weather to get a bit colder before giving the lawn a final mow for the season.

Attribution: All photos, with the exception of the moss-drinking bees and the swarm collection, are courtesy of our friend, Tony John.



Translation (rather fanciful, ‘poetic’ one from Peter McDonald, reproduced in the TLS, https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/poem-week-bees-virgils-georgics-book-iv/)

Virgil. The Georgics. Book 4

sleep silences the working hive
and leaves it quiet as the grave.

For bees put no trust in the sky
when storms come up with an east wind,
and seldom venture far away
from their stations when downpours impend:
instead, they draw the water off
and stick close to their city walls
where any flights they take are brief;
as the wind blows and the rain falls
they steady themselves through turbulence
by taking with them little stones
(as frail boats, faced with violence
of gales and tides, take ballast on),
and hold their given course along
the clouds, balanced, and balancing.


7 thoughts on “And there were bees…

  1. Oh, it’s good to “see” you again–Latin, bees–the lot! That tree comb is beautiful, isn’t it amazing what the girls do?

    Posted by Tina | September 22, 2019, 3:57 pm
  2. It’s a nice description of bee life by Virgil. I wonder what he meant by “taking with them little stones”? Or am I being too literal?

    Posted by philipstrange | September 30, 2019, 3:24 pm
  3. Beautiful photos – glad the bees are doing well.

    Posted by Emily Scott | October 1, 2019, 7:30 am

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