I’m sat in the luxurious lounge of Anchorage House, Tighnabruaich, gazing across a narrow stretch of blue/grey sea to the rolling hills of Bute, with my laptop perched upon a cushion on my knee. It is a favourite family holiday location; the natural beauty of Argyle and Bute is staggering. The house where we stay is big and comfortable and thoughtfully decorated by talented interior designer Johanne Simm, who lives downstairs. The thing I find so amazing is how this one view, the one I’m viewing right now, frequently morphs into a multitude of different versions of itself, depending on the light and the weather and the time of year. I get twenty views a day from the same window, each one as stunning as the one it replaces.
I have just returned from a long walk with the beagles, who jumped in every ditch and rolled in everything that shouldn’t be rolled in, and they now sit at my feet snoring loudly and contentedly. They don’t smell great, but they are lovable creatures.
Unfortunately for my walrus physique, I rewarded myself after the walk with a cheese and pickle sandwich followed by a fruit scone upon which rested a mountain of strawberry jam and thick Jersey cream. Why did I do it? “Because it was there,” as all climbers would know. Some challenges just can’t be shirked.
I frequently think of my bees, far away back in Cheshire, frantically building queen cells and preparing to swarm before I return. It’s what bees do. They always wait until I’m away and then they get up to mischief. On the day before my travels, I took my beekeeper assistant and daughter, Clíona, to my apiaries and we checked for queen cells and ensured that the bees had adequate space. I was delighted to find that only one colony had made cells. It was the biggest one with the evil bees inside that I’m going to re-queen as soon as I can. These bees are the descendants of what I call my “mountain bees”, and they have been good so far, but now they have grown into a monster colony they are a little too lively for my liking. At least they have made 60lbs of honey, which I shall be taking when I get back.
Anyway, when I found that the evil hive had made queen cells, it was raining, and if there’s one thing that makes evil bees positively demonic, it is being opened up by a swearing walrus in a downpour. This was a double brood box hive, so the queen cells were visible on the bottom frames of the top box which I tilted up in order to have a peek. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that the way I dealt with this situation was to simply carry the top brood box to another floor elsewhere in the apiary and split the hive without digging around trying to find the queen. I think it will be OK because if the queen was in the box that I moved they won’t be able to swarm, and if she was in the box left behind they’ll need to build new queen cells before swarming, which means I might catch it in time when I return. The queen in that hive is not marked, and even if I’d spent the time going through it, I might not have found her. I’m pretty sure the evil workers’ stings would have found me.
I have not yet seen a honey bee in Tighnabruaich this year, and I have only seen a couple of bumbles. There are some hardy souls keeping their hardy bees out here, but so far I haven’t found them. Beautiful though this place is, it is not the ideal environment for honey bees, what with all the wind and rain for so much of the year. It is a fine spot for a walrus, however, so I shall be off, doing what walruses do best (laying about) and I look forward to being back with my six-legged friends next week.