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Beekeeper’s Notes: Spectacular Autumn Is Here And A Caterpillar Being Eaten By Fly Maggots

Published on: 1 Nov, 2022
Updated on: 31 Oct, 2022

Hugh Coakley keeps bees in Worplesdon

The weather is drawing in, shorter days and a little bit colder and wetter. Just what we would expect and even hope for at this beautiful time of year.

We love autumn and it’s already looking great. The Winkworth Arboretum, founded with the spectacular autumn displays in mind, is so busy, I hear you have to book to visit.

Spectacular autumn at Winkworth Aboretum.

Our hives are prepared for the long winter. Plenty of honey for the bees to last them through to next March.

All except one, which for some reason, appears to be a bit light on stores and we have fed it to make sure it can survive. When training, we were asked to lift up one side of a hive box which had been filled with heavy bricks. “That’s how heavy your hive should feel” leading up to the colder seasons, we were told. It is called hefting a hive and it’s a useful and simple way of judging if your bees are well stocked.

A random observation. We saw on our conservatory door what we think is a “cabbage” white butterfly caterpillar being eaten alive by a tiny fly and it’s progeny.

A “cabbage” white caterpillar being eaten by fly maggots. Two weeks later, the caterpillar had been devoured. Photographed on a glass door.

Meanwhile, on warmer days the bees are very active flying.

They are still bringing in the four items on their 20 million-year-old unvaried shopping list; nectar, pollen, water and tree sap, whenever they can.

Bees are still busy on warmish days bringing in pollen.

Nectar to convert to honey, their food. Less now but there are still some sources in gardens and on things like ivy, surprisingly.

Pollen to provide protein to the decreasing number of eggs and larvae in the hive.

Water to drink. We all need water.

And tree sap. The bees convert it into propolis, a sticky antiseptic substance which they use to line the cells before the queen lays her eggs but also used to block up gaps in their nest. Traditionally, people would rub propolis on their gums for some relief if they had a toothache.

Isn’t nature fascinating?

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