We drive through heavy rain along the southern edge of Dartmoor, then clouds evaporate as we head down into South Hams and arrive at Martin’s house. To get kitted up Martin gives us each a circular beekeeping hat and veil combo, with a panel of stiffened black net in front of the face, and soft white net all around with elasticated arm loops. I wear my old anorak over the top, zipped right up, with a pair of grey walking gloves under some Marigolds from Wilko’s (to keep my hands from getting sweaty inside the rubber gloves), and hiking sox long enough so I can tuck in the legs of my trousers. I couldn’t get the Marigolds over my jacket sleeves, but forgot about it once we were outside. I had the little SD camera to film Stuart filming the bees with Martin.

Smoke puffs in the long grass under the apple tree, a few bees coming and going. Encased in clothes and net, I can smell and hear, but it’s difficult to focus my eyes on the camera screen through the black mesh. I operate my hands by partial sight and muscle memory as I can’t feel.

Martin opened up both hives: the colony on the right attacked the small mic that Stuart dropped in to record the hive interior, and although hundreds of bees massed on the tops of the boxes, they were settled. The bees in the left hand hive got more and more agitated, and after an hour there was a lot of buzzing around. Martin got stung several times on his legs. Once the bees found me they got curious, crawling over the camera, walking up and down my fingers and flying at the lens. I deliberately kept still once I’d attracted their attention, and carried on filming. Then a tickle on my left forearm. Martin said: Put your arm up, they always crawl upwards. But the bee wandered down towards the inside of my elbow, so I went (carefully) up to the garage, pulled off my Marigolds, held open the sleeve of my jacket and gave it a shake. I looked down as I did this, and felt a pinprick on my chin: a bee nestling in the folds of net around my neck. A few minutes later we finished filming and Martin scraped the sting out of my chin. I had some antihistamine and a coffee, and a hot red patch on my chin, but felt ok. Martin said there are 30 to 40 thousand bees in each hive, and a bee sting releases alarm pheromones that trigger other bees to attack.

Evening: off in Val’s car for a meal with Liz and Peter who live north of the city in the wilds on the border between Devon and Cornwall. We head along damp single track roads with tufts of grass growing through the cracked steaming tarmac, narrowed by dripping branches and bracken. A disturbed wood pigeon with a plump sleek belly struggles to stay airborne.

The house is in a triangle of hills near Rumleigh, between the Tavy and Tamar rivers, on a south-facing slope with a view across a valley dense with random trees. There are sleek pale newts swimming in a small pond, and a bush (Mahonia?) with clusters of small lemon-yellow flowers is humming with bees, wasps and hover flies. Liz and Peter will be up in East Anglia in August filming a programme about Isaac Newton for Italian TV. Peter says Newton’s apple tree is still alive.

There are rumours of noctilucent clouds in the sky tonight. A clear white gibbous moon rises above the ridge and a bat swings to and fro on the other side of the French windows. Going home we drive through wafts of mist hanging in the snaky lanes.

Glowing Clouds Filmed from Space Station

Drift in and out of sleep from 2 till 6. I feel the bees’ presence and my skin prickles with a light buzz. I hear their spiky feet tip-toeing across the foam on the personal mic, and catch the scent of the bee smoke.