Saturday, 27 December 2008

Oxalic Action.....The Movie!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Happy Christmas Clan Varroa! .......NOT!

Today dawned bright and sunny here in Oxfordshire! So we set our mid-winter plan in motion to treat all our bees for Varroa using Oxalic Acid.
This treatment was discussed at the Southern Regional Bee Disease Recognition day, where the experts felt that everyone should treat their bees at christmas. This forms just one element of an integrated programme, employing a variety of techniques throughout the season, to lessen the impact of these damaging pests.
I have reservations about using 'chemicals' on my bees, but after much research, it seemed the lesser of all evils........and my old mentor Wally, up on Anglesey, has been advocating it's use for years. So, after a quick chat with my beekeeping pal Ian, Lynne and I set off to the 'lottie' Apiary. The hive was briefly opened, and we were greeted by the heartwarming sight of a large cluster of gentle bees, who seemed unpeturbed by my clumsy efforts to attend to their welfare!
Back home, we opened our garden hive to be greeted by a large number of bees, again clustered on about 6-8 frames. Lynne shot a short video which we will link here when we can sort out the computer glich's....look out David Attenborough & the BBC Wildlife Unit!

Friday, 5 December 2008

More on the GM debate!

Just recieved our latest copy of 'The Ecologist', and browsed their website. Lynne and I were, to put it mildly, very disappointed in the recent BBC Horizon programme which featured the very presentable Jimmy Doherty 'waxing lyrical' on the whole GM debate.
After his excellent 2 programmes on the plight of both the UK's Bees, and those of Tibet, we thought that we would be treated to a balanced review of this dificult subject. We urge everyone to form their own view, but we are NOT convinced that this is the way ahead! Please check out the link above.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

London Protest!

Our hearts were there with them! I urge everyone to read this article in the Independant newspaper (click on 'London Protest' link above).

Conflict of Interest? I think so...

Just recieved this mail from Phil, and thought i'd re-publish it here:

Dear Beekeeper,

As you are probably aware by now, the British Bee Keepers Association (BBKA) has an arrangement with certain pesticide manufacturers to endorse some of their products as 'bee friendly', despite the fact that they are known to be toxic to bees. They have also failed to make any statement condemning the now widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides, despite the proven fact that they caused the death of millions of bees in Germany this year, and have done so in Italy and France since the turn of the century.

When making statements to the press, the BBKA seems very reluctant to even mention pesticides as a possible cause of problems to bees, despite massive European evidence to the contrary. BBKA secretary Mike Harris was quoted recently in the Yorkshire Post as saying "...Colony Collapse Disorder was caused by the varroa parasite. Pesticides were a separate problem..." (

Many beekeepers consider that the BBKA's financial relationship with Bayer and Syngenta effectively prevents them from fulfilling their prime function as guardians of the interests of bees and beekeeping.

Now the BBKA appears to be planning to extend its endorsement of bee-killing pesticides, by becoming a rubber-stamping body for Bayer, with no requirement for independent testing - merely a review of the manufacturer's own data. You can read the full text of their proposals here

Considering that complete severance of financial ties to pesticide manufacturers could be replaced only a £1 increase in membership fees, it seems remarkable that a national body claiming to act in the best interests of its membership would compromise their integrity so readily and so cheaply.

Bayer is one of the most untrustworthy corporations on the planet, with a record that would shame the most hardened criminal (see their Wikipedia entry, just for starters), yet one of the oldest and once respected beekeepers' organizations thinks that 'taking their word for it' is an acceptable way to assess Bayer's toxic products.

We call upon all beekeepers to make their views on this subject known to the BBKA.

You can send them an email using this form

or perhaps you would like to send the BBKA president, Tim Lovett, a personal message? If so, here is his email address -

And - just to be fair - my email address is

Phil Chandler

Also see:

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
(Origin unknown, often attributed to Abraham Lincoln)

Tuesday, 4 November 2008


Fantastic sculpture, and it's great that the Eden Project are raising the profile of the plight of our native bees! Well done guys!
Just recieved a package from Bees for Development, containing a short eductional DVD titled 'Dancing with Bees' that the LAAGs can use in presentations (ideal for schools etc). It even has a nano-second piece of footage of a Varroa mite hitching a lift on a bee during the credits at the end! eeeeeeeew!
As well as a new book by Jurgen Tautz: 'The Buzz about Bees'. Amazing! just the most scrumptious photography! and hugely informative.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Eden Project recognises the importance of bees

This is Bombus the bee - a rather splendid and large sculpture to illustrate pollination and its importance to plants and therefore us. We met him on a half term trip to Cornwall.

They also had a pleasing range of bee-keeping books in the shop. We got a book on choosing the right bee friendly plants in a garden which will be of use not only in our own garden but also the apiary as well.


Thursday, 23 October 2008

Bees for Development

Just a quick note to say that my membership pack from Bees for Development has arrived! Complete with natty 'tamper-proof' honey jar labels! Remember folks, 10p from every label goes to a REALLY worthy cause.
Snaggly day out there today, so i'm tucked up with a good bee book, mugging up for my BBKA Basic Assessment next year. The bees are also all set for the winter, well fed & just the mouseguards to go on. However, we'll also have to think about anti-woodpecker measures, which is a new one on me! .....rascals!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The LAAGS bag their first 'victim'

Our friend Andrew stayed over with us at the weekend and as well as a walk at Westonbirt and sampling the delights of our village pub, he was keen to meet the bees on Sunday morning So we all met up with Steve to help show Andrew a glimpse of the fascinating world of the bees.

Andrew is in the white bee-suit. Steve is to the left of the photo and I'm lurking in the middle .

Inspite of Andrew receiving his first ever bee sting he went home determined to order bee-keeping books with a view to having his own hive at some point. That's what I meant about 'bagging a victim' - someone else has found them fascinating and worth further investigation. (and if you're wondering how he could possibly be stung dressed in all that, the answer is that he got handed some gloves about 10 seconds too late...)

We are keen to use our apiary to learn about bees ourselves, but also to encourage others to learn about them too . Often when we've been up there a plot holder has stopped what they were doing to watch and Sunday was no exception and a mum and daughter were shown a frame of bees at close quarters as they watched from the other side of the fence.

We call it the Bee P.R department !


Saturday, 11 October 2008

Top-Bar Hives

We have decided this coming season to experiment with a top-bar hive. This type of hive allows the bees to naturally build their own elliptical comb within the hive, rather than be constrained by our man-made frames. Our intention is to create a more balanced ratio of honey to wax, beautiful cut comb to eat, bees being allowed to live as they want, healthier drones, less disease and happier bees!!!

Watch this space...........

We have purchased our first hive via Thornes, from Bees for Development. Over the winter, we will build a stand and generally prepare it for use in the early spring. Our initial thought (always subject to change) is to have the top-bar at our allotment site, along with our newly refurbished WBC. This will allow us the unique opportunity to have three hive varieties in one spot for comparison. The idea would be that it would be a great training area for us, other local beekeepers and any interested villagers.
(P.S. The picture of a top-bar hive at the top of this post came from where you will find lots of inspiring hive designs)

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

New Link

Hi! Just a quick note to say that I have joined the Bee Improvement & Bee Breeders Association (BIBBA) and have attached a link opposite! Although my Beekeeping knowledge and experience may not meet such grand expectations! I felt that they are doing a fantastic job in trying to combat bee disease and improvement at a local level, and every extra member means more money going towards research etc.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The allotment holders take the bees to their hearts

Or so it seems. Its nice to report that one of the first questions I'm asked if I bump in to a fellow allotmenteer around the village is 'how are the bees' or 'are the bees ok in this weather' . The postman even knocks on the door to enquire how they're doing!.

I'd like to think that our bees have captured imaginations, especially as they are in the news more recently with scary headlines about honey shortages etc. Having bees in the village brings the story closer to home and there is an engagement with, and a longing to understand this important insect.

This can only be to the bees advantage; its something we intend to capitalise on as our apiary area takes shape in the village.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The Sting in the Tail!

Whilst collecting the samples below, I took the opportunity to inspect a bee that I found by the hive.
Here are a couple of pictures of the reason that most people are afraid of bees....the sting in the tail!
Clearly, you can see the 'barbs' that everyone talks about, what I didn't photograph, was the 1.5cm 'entrail' that came with it! It's now clear to see why bees die after stinging a human. I feel desperately sorry after a bee gets caught in my gloves or suit. Thankfully, the bees that came to me from Maismore are really mellow and gentle!

'A World Without Bees' is this the reason why?

Last night, we had our dear friends Tim & Julie over for supper.

After a sumptuous meal, the girls retired to the sitting room to discuss worldly issues, whilst Tim and I got out my microscope!....ooer!

Here we can see our mutual enemy, the scurge of all Beekeepers the world over, plucked from the board below.

Like all creatures that make you go....ewww! it is simple in its destructive beauty.

Meet the scourge of beekeepers worldwide!

I took out the tray from our hive at home, and here are the results!

Having been inspected earlier in the season, I knew that I had a substantial Varroa load in the hive, after which we removed the drone comb.

But this is the drop after ten days! Each spot on the board is one mite, carrying lord knows what load of virus and disease!

Todays match: Steve V Varroa!

It's that time of year again! Off with the honey (not that we had any!), and in with the pest control!
I am following the advice of the boys at DEFRA, and going with Apiguard. I put in a tray about ten days ago, and now it's on with the second tray for each hive. The girls at the Lottie have done well and, i've taken the risk of re-opening the entrance (to a narrow one). The re-united hive at home has done really well, and has lots of sealed brood, eggs and stores.
Yesterday, I placed new wasp traps at the Lottie, as the others were full.......rain and wasps!
However, we are not out of the woods yet! This time last year, Lynne & I went upstairs to bed.....fnarr, fnarr! to be met with at least 80 wasps in our bedroom! They'd nested in the eaves, little tykes! So it was on with the bee suit.........NO dear readers, titter ye not! and after much swatting, I reclaimed our scrummy sleeping space!

Monday, 25 August 2008

Bees Scoff at Credit Crunch Rumour!

Just a blog of complete bee based nonsense, but!.........I am reminded that we used a copy of the Financial Times to separate our two hives when we amalgamated the two home hives last week. Does this mean that bees can officially be said to have 'scoffed' at rumours of the Governments 'credit crunch'.........(recession, by anyone elses standards!).

Education for all!

Bravo, Bravo!
Bee's should indeed be (s'cuse the pun!) at the heart of everyone's agenda right now, not least of which in the new school curriculum.
We too introduced a potential new-comer to the challenging, yet exciting world of beekeeping at the weekend.
We were at a BBQ next door when 'Josh' (the 12 year old son of our neighbours sister), heard that we kept bees, and he was intrigued to see our hive.
So, never one to shy away from a challenge, I got him into Lynne's jacket, and off we went!
Mum, who is a professional photographer came along at our home apiary (unsuited) to take some pictures and, we had a fantastic hour or so looking into the workings of a hive.
I also gave him a basic bee biology lesson (in our kitchen) with my new 'scope! Lynne is awaiting the pictures by email, but they should be lovely!
Josh was, and I quote......"blown away by the bees, they were brilliant!, I never knew they were so complicated, yet lovely!"
It all bodes well for our combined efforts next year to promote our bees, and get the village truly behind us, as well as any picking up any new members along the way!

A Bank holiday with the bees

Julie and I have been away for the last week, so I was keen to take a look and see how our hives were progressing today - not a detailed inspection - but a quick look-see. In addition, I guessed that the feeders would want topping up.

We've been feeding both the hives since we did the split in late April. Hopefully this has served to build up the colonies. Sure enough, when I popped the roof off on both hives, the feeders were down to the dregs (which doesn't look pretty). Cleaned the feeders out a little - another use I'd never expected to use a hive tool for....

The feeders? We're using Ashforth feeders on the hives at the moment. They're simply trays where you can pour the sugar syrup in. The bees come up and take the feed through a series of slots.

Both hives seemed quite strong - there was a sense that the newer hive was more vigorous than the original one - though there were plenty of bees in both!

This afternoon, I went up to the allotment to pick some raspberries. I ran into some friends out for a walk; Phil and Cathryn with their children, Henry and Joanna. Phil had expressed some interest in seeing the bees before, so invited to come and meet them. Plenty of bees were flying, so it was nice to be able to explain a little about beekeeping. Yes, Henry, honey IS bee-sick.

After they'd gone, I filmed a little video at each of the hives, which you might find interesting. Sorry there are no real close-ups. I didn't have my bee-suit on - and even with nicely tempered bees - you still have to be a little careful!

A World Without Bees by Alison Benjamin & Brian McCallum

I've been quietly reading this book whilst on holiday. It is written by two journalists who are also bee-keepers. It sets out the background, history and current thinking over the whole CCD thing (Colony Collapse Disorder) which is gripping world headlines and worrying bee-keepers on a global scale. And dear reader it should be worrying you even if you are not a bee-keeper - read on!

For bee-keepers its a balanced read. No scaremongering just solid research gathering all the possible threads and ideas that may well explain CCD. There is no overall solution offered but some food for thought as to possible areas that as bee-keepers we should be aware of. It adds background to our practical knowledge and fills in the gaps of our theoretical and historical notes. Not a technical read by any means but as a bee-keeper I learnt a lot.

For naturalists its an insight in to bee-keeping both small and industrial scale. If you care about all creatures then its not always a comfortable read as you realise just how bees are treated especially in the commercial world of bee-keeping in the States. Sobering and not a little worrying. Bees are seen as a 'commodity' to be brokered as such. Feels wrong doesn't it?

For ecologists and environmentalists its a must read. Not only to understand bees and their potential demise and the huge implications this has on our food supply, but to view its implications for life on a much wider animal scale. As the authors ask are bees the 'canary in the coal mine'? Is their decline and suffering an indication of our own environmental mess. Are they the sign we need to heed that we are next. What can we learn from this to help the bees and indeed other creatures.

This book is not a sensationalist read; its objective, clearly written and well researched. There is no 'agenda' or authors own pet theory to cloud the ideas. Just calm facts which makes it a more worrying read.

Its an important book.


Sunday, 24 August 2008

A Day with Hive No 1

Steve and I decided to go through Hive One yesterday while the weather was good (for once!).
Our aims were to check that the girls were thriving after our wasp attacks of the previous weeks. We had also decided to give back a Super containing at least six frames of capped off honey as winter stores. This had come from our garden hive. As these bees at the lotty had come from a nucleaus created by our garden bees, this seemed synergystic!

As we started to go down through the hive, we realised quickly that the bees had done absolutely nothing with the top Super. No stores, very few bees, foundation not being worked at all.

But as we removed the Queen excluder and explored the brood box below it was thankfully a different story!

We were very pleased to find our Queen and find lots of capped and uncapped brood. There were plenty of honey and nectar stores ........altogether most satisfying!!

So now happy with the hives state, we were then able to replace our untouched Super with our one filled with honey and to most importantly add our Apiguard.
This is the early Autumn treatment as recommended by our regional bee inspector (Robert). This is the first varroa treatment which has to go in during mid August while the temperatures are still high enough. The next treatment is with Oxalic Acid at Yule and followed with Pyrethroid strips in Spring and maybe icing sugar in between. This is known as integrated pest management and is followed by responsible beekeepers in the UK.
In conclusion ....... a goodly day with the bees!

Friday, 22 August 2008

A little poem

Some bee poetry for inspiration

Nectar Flow
- for all beekeepers, who live by the seasons with their bees

The song of bees has made you wise,
taught you about flowers and trees,
once so foreign, now old friends.
Watching wide eyed for their comings and goings,
the ebbs and flows of nature's sweetness,
you've come to know the seasons,
learned that weeds can be wonderful,
secret allies instead of foes that help create ambrosia a drop of sugar at a time.

Honeybees sing out with insight,
living their lives against our definitions that we prescribe,
line by line, an attempt to classify, identify,
cement in stone what is and isn't.

The beating of small wings,
thousands fanning together,
a whirlwind of silky air is the music playing in your ears,
your hearts and souls,

The miracle of something as simple,
as complex as honey, defying definition,

A sweet reminder that we are just human,
and some things are still beyond our understanding.

© Kirsten Shoshanna Traynor 2003
Return to Poetry index.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

BBC Green

Just added a cool link to the BBC Green website, today they are featuring the plight of our Bee's!
Just click on the BBC Green title above!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Where's summer?

Awful day again! where did Summer go? Unable to get into my Bee's again today because of almost consistant rain!
Oh well, at least it'll be just as wet for the wasps! But we really need to be thinking of putting Apiguard into the hives about now, to combat the Varroa load before Autumn.
However, as I sip on my pint of fine foaming ale, engrossed in the Olympics, I can see the Sun peeping out from the clouds above........just as the BBC announce yet another 'severe weather warning' for tomorrow! Pants! ...........big baggy ones!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Winters project!

I bought these two old WBC's from a retired bee keeper near Burford. They are truly snaggly, but VERY cute and, with a little tlc, will provide a few more years service.

So having 'divie'd' them up into two, and donated one to Tim & Julie, I got straight onto Thornes for a new brood chamber and supers!

The lifts all seem to be in reasonable nick, and just need a light sanding and some obligatory white paint!, although Lynne wants to paint ours Shamanically! .........could be fun!

Either way, it's a good bit of bee recycling in action!

Now meet one of my girls!

It only seemed fair to post some pictures of one of my girls! She was found dead at the hive entrance at the start of the 'Helms Deep' style war that I found last week! as upsetting as I found the situation (sorry, i'm VERY soppy about my bees!), it gave me a golden opportunity to get 'up close and personal' with Apis Mellifera!

I used the basic set of lenses that came with the 'scope, and our little digital camera pointed down one of the optics........a bit Heath Robinson, but the results are fabulous!

I am now in even more awe of these amazing creatures!

Once I get a bit better, i'll publish more pictures, as I explore their unique anatomy & physiology!

Know your enemy!

After attending this years National Bee Unit, Southern Regional Bee Disease Identification Day at Benson, I have invested in a microscope which I have been able to put to immediate use in identifying my assailants!

Meet Vespula Germanica! (the German Wasp) a member of the 'social wasp' family. These blighters generally do a fantastic job of predating on pests around the garden and allotment. However, at this time of the year, the nest breaks up, and they search for food to stock up for the winter, and new homes!
Honey, and bees, are high on their list of scrummy treats!

There is little that can be done about their sustained attacks, and the key would be to find and destroy their nest........not very ethical! As ground nesting wasps, their home could be almost anywhere in a 400 metre radius of the plot. We have a rubble pile at the back of the apiary, and my money's on that being the site! However, the jam traps seem to be working, and we will be better informed next year!
If all else fails: machine gun nests with interlocking arcs of fire may be employed! lol!

Batten down the hatches!

Those of you with a keen eye for detail, will notice that there is a strip of varroa mesh over the entrance to my hive! Shortly after moving the girls in, the local Wasp population exploded, and the hive suffrered from a major robbing attack! I found dead bees everywhere, and wasps moving into the hive at will!
After a little research, and with the support of Tim & Julie, we restricted the entrance to 'one bee space', and deployed 8 'jam n beer' wasp traps around the site. These measures seem to have been successful so far, and the bees are at least now able to defend their home!
However, after an entertaining hour at the hive entrance, I brought one of the assailants home for closer inspection!

Nuc finds a new home!

After a relatively short time, the nuc had expanded to fill all 5 frames, so it was time to move into their new home!

Who's who?

As friendly and responsible bee keepers, we felt that it was important to have some way of local people being able to contact us in case of problems, or to answer any questions they may have. Indeed, the educational potential of the Apiary is something that we fully intend to promote within the village and local community. To this end, I made up a small sign for the apiary from a recycled slate roofing tile with our contact details!

Future projects include an information board regarding the bees as the season progress', as well as information on BumbleBee conservation.

Our membership is NOT exclusive, and we would encourage any other plot holders/village members to join us in our quest to promote and conserve one of the country's most precious resources!

First: the layout!

We decided to fence off the plot to add a degree of 'security' from walkers and inquisitive children! This will be backed up by 'bee friendly hedging', which we intent getting from an ethical supplier. This will help to 'push' the foraging bees up and over neighbours and fellow allotmenteers! Thus reducing the risk of any conflict, even though we have the enthusiastic support of every plot holder that we could canvas!

Next in were the paving slabs to act as a base for the hive stands, these provide a grass free area under the varroa mesh floors, and allow easy inspection of the debris falling from under the brood nest. Sadly, the bees don't seem to have any concept of sweeping up after themselves! so that will be our job!

New Beginings!

Having teamed up with Tim & Julie, and having gained permission to start the apiary, the bee's arrived!

We first moved in T&J's bee's from their 'out' apiary, then I moved in my newly formed 'nuc' from home. I was able to make this up from the bees that I bought from Maisemore Apiaries in Gloucestershire a few weeks earlier.......fabulous people, cheaper than many of their rivals, friendly and eager to impart nuggets of bee wisdom! I whole heartedly reccomend them!

Hail and Welcome!!

Well here it is - our new beekeeping Blog.
The idea is to follow the trials and tribulations of our group as we go through the seasons on the allotment and with our bees.
We formed the group this summer with the kind permission of our allotment manager Tony and also our Parish Council.
Our aims are to successfully keep our bees on the allotment in harmony with, and to the benefit of, our fellow allotmenteers. We want to show the importance of beekeeping and use it as an educational tool for anyone who has an interest.
Please contact us if you want to know more.