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.