It’s November and our bees are only just beginning to settle down for the winter. They are still determined to get out and work whatever ivy blossom is left even when the sun is not shining.

There was a time when beekeepers were glad of the occasional fine day in October to give their bees a chance to gather some of the bright yellow pollen to store for brood rearing the following spring. The problem now is that, with yet another very mild autumn, the bees are overworking when they should be resting. As well as pollen they now often collect a considerable harvest of nectar, which is converted into a rapidly crystallising honey. Once solid, the honey leaves little space for the bees to cluster efficiently and will hinder the rapid expansion of the brood nest in the spring.

One is often asked about the problems facing modern beekeeping and it is all too easy to be pessimistic. The usual suspects; pesticides, disease and now climate change, are placing a major stress on a creature that has evolved to be in fine balance with its environment. Ecologists refer to the honey bee as ‘the canary in the coalmine’ warning us of impending danger, and so she is at the biological level. But she is also our teacher in true stewardship and in our need to understand and to work within the full complexity of nature.

It is within this context that we hope our bees will thrive and prosper at Trill. Although traditional beekeeping books treat autumn as the end of one year and the beginning of another, it is still far too early to pass judgement on our current season. To avoid winter loss, the bees must be in the best possible shape to survive through to the spring. Only then will we know how successful our efforts of the previous year have been.