We have just had a quick succession of three storms pass over London. One hive had its roof blown off, and one of the nucleus colonies was blown over! Alhamdulillah, they both appear fine, but we won’t really know if this has caused any problems until our first spring checks.

We asked one of our beekeepers, Khalil, to reflect on the last year, and look forward to the year ahead.

Reflecting on 2021

The start of 2021 was difficult for our bees; it was reported to be the coldest spring in over 60 years. The bees did not have an opportunity to start foraging until late April, whereas most years they would be out by early March. Our locally adapted bee colonies are frugal in the use of stores, so were able to manage this unusual period quite well. We did however have to keep a careful eye on their stores, and had to feed a couple of the smaller colonies to ensure they did not starve.

For the first time we were able to run beekeeping courses and experience days at the mosque. The facilities available to us mean we can run both the theory and practical aspects on site, and teach our beginner beekeepers all they need to know to manage their own hives. We have enough hives on the roof to allow us to go into various hives, and each attendee had plenty of opportunity to get hands on. I am glad to say we have had some very positive feedback and are looking to run the course again this year.

Our experience days also went well, everyone who attended was able to suit up, examine the hives with us, ask questions, take photos, and had a lovely time understanding the benefits bees bring, why we decided to keep bees at the mosque, and what the life of a beekeeping involves. 

Due to the late start of the beekeeping year, honey collecting was understandably impacted; although our colonies did manage to bring in some excess, we decided to not remove too much. We took the opportunity last year to rear a number of new queen bees, and now have new queens in most of our colonies.

Winter was quite warm, which is not good for the bees – a sustained period of cold means the queen stops laying, less varroa breed within the hives, and the colony being less active means it uses less stores. The last check revealed they all have stores and at this time appear to be healthy and strong. 

Maryam Centre Hives

The two Maryam Centre hives took a long time to recover from the late spring. The queens were quite old and were replaced in the summer. We managed to take off a small amount of excess honey but decided to leave them with the majority. We currently have 2 full colonies in the area.

LMC Roof

We currently have eight full size hives, and are looking to keep this number in 2022. This number is what we require for our training sessions; they give us the opportunity to look at hives of different strengths and temperaments, and allows each participant to check a hive without us needing to disturb the colonies too much.

Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond

Due to this winter being warmer than usual, our colonies may have a higher amount of varroa, so we have decided to give them an early spring varroa treatment for the first time; this we will start at the end of February, and will take 4 weeks to complete.

The hives we have on the roof are currently a mix of wood and polystyrene types. We will consider using all wooden cedar hives this year.

We are also looking to continue with our beginner beekeeping courses and experience days this year. Our plan is to run two courses, one in May and one in June, with experience days running at various times starting in May.

In 2023 we are looking to run some more advanced courses, such as queen rearing, and would like to once again invite other beekeeping associations to visit the mosque bees if possible.

For more information about courses, visit Bushwood Bees . Find out more about the ELM beehives on our Bee Blog.