Tristram Stuart

The beehives buzzing quietly in the boot, I drove up the motorway. The bees thrived in the Ashdown Forest in late summer. Transplanted to East London, perhaps they would feel hemmed in by tarmac and buildings. But the next morning when I opened the hives, it took them no time to find the lime trees on London Fields and they filled the frames with a clear, sharp-tasting liquor. Later in the season, they created dark swathes of almost bitter honey (a speciality in some parts of the world) by harvesting honeydew from aphids. Londoners fill their gardens with exotic plants that flower even in winter and these plus the countless roadside cherries and crab apples keep bees in forage all year round. In cold weather they huddle in quiet, rustling balls, eating honey for heating fuel, regulating each other’s body temperature until the spring warms them and the flowers back into production. On milder winter days, they go out into the garden to crap out the indigestible matter in their food. The sight of them ambling around reassures me.

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