Thursday, 24 November 2011
Monday, 29 August 2011
An acquaintance applied for a grant to promote the welfare of pollinators, and bees in particular, by giving away bee-friendly plants to anyone willing to grow them in their garden. The grant application was successful, and in April, a group of like-minded people gathered in the local pub (always a good place to talk!) to discuss how to go about this and the working name of “Bees for Bentham” was agreed.
Some of the grant money went towards buying a supply of compost from the local green waste recycling company and some seeds chosen from lists of bee-friendly plants (many available on the internet). Some of us then propagated the first batch of plants.
We have acquired posters, leaflets and information booklets relating to bees and some of the problems they face and what we can do about them from Neal's Yard, The Bumble Bee Conservation Trust and Biobees.com. A beautifully made banner has been put together by one of the team to attach to the stall we use.
Another local group called BEST (Bentham Environmentally Sustainable Town) were holding a “Garden Food Day” and we had a stall there giving away the first plants. Despite the weather (heavy rain all day) and having a stall outside (under a large canopy) we gave away and estimated 250 plants. Some local people have offered us plants and cuttings which we have given away from a stall at the Low Bentham Street Fair, along with more information.
An unexpected side effect of this has been questions raised about bee-keeping from people who are interested, but unsure of where to start, find the cost of equipment prohibitive, or haven't gotten around to following up on their interest. I've given them all my contact details in the hope that they will contact me, so that I can invite them all to an “Introduction to Natural Beekeeping” evening. I am currently putting together a presentation on this subject which I will use. I was asked to put it together for the Sedburgh & District Beekeepers Association, where a number of beekeepers have expressed an interest. If anyone else in the area is interested, PM me through the Biobees forum or use the Kontactr Me button to the left of the first post on the page.
Saturday, 20 August 2011
The conference was organised by the natural Beekeeping Alliance, which comprises Friends of the Bees and the Natural Beekeeping Trust, represented respectively by Phil Chandler and Heidi Hermann. Speakers included - Phil Chandler, Heidi Herrmann, David Heaf, Adebisi Adekunle, Brigit Strawbridge, James Fearnley, John Harding, Andy Pearce, Nicola Bradbear.
As with all conferences one of the aims was to meet other, like-minded people. There was plenty of time for chatting during tea and meal breaks (and the food was delicious!).
The talks were all fascinating, and it was a joy to not be PowerPointed to death! There were demonstrations of all of the major natural beekeeping hive types, given by regular users (except the Perone hive, which was ably explained by Andy Pearce, who has obviously done an immense amount of research).
It is hoped that another conference will be held in two years (2013). I, for one, am looking forward to it!
Wednesday, 29 June 2011
….... and there has been a lot happening!
Both of the hives have behaved in exactly the same way! After the split on May 6th I left the hives alone (apart from an occasional peep through the observation window) for 32 days. I expected to see evidence of a laying queen by then, but there was nothing other than agitated bees, one of whom decided that they no longer liked our postman and stung him on the ear!
That colony had to be moved before we would have mail delivered..... no bills? Tempting! My neighbours offered me a space in a corner of their field If I was willing to clear it of weeds and nettles. An afternoon of strimming and a morning of covering with landscaping fabric and bark chips and the hive was moved! Actually I think this is a better spot for the bees as it offers more shelter from the wind.
Advice was sought from the good folk on the Biobees forum. All agreed, queenless hives! I started to search for replacement queens. None could be found locally, so the net was cast further afield via Google. The most promising was from a bee keeper on the Wirral, which would include a round trip of 160 miles. At the eleventh hour, the deal fell through, the viability of the queens could not be guaranteed.
I was getting concerned that by the time queens were located it may be too late for the colonies to support the next generation of brood. Plan B? Find two nucleus colonies.
The day before the 240 mile round trip to Shropshire armed with my credit card, I thought it wise to check the hives again. 41 days after the split, still no sign of a laying queen in either hive, but no laying worker either. Suspicious!
Still, I bit the bullet and collected the nucs, arriving home mid evening I placed the nuc boxes on top of the hives they were to supplement. The weather that week-end wasn't good enough for a chop'n'crop, so they were quickly moved into borrowed national brood boxes, with top-bars placed in the space left. Next week-end the weather was good, so a quick check through the first hive for laying workers before the chop'n'crop and there are capped cells....... capped worker cells...... 49 days after the split that was three days after a swarm (when the queen cells would have been capped. OK, leave them for now and on to the other hive. Yes, more capped queen cells! These girls were slow to start laying!!!
So now I have four functioning colonies! How do I explain that to SWMBO? Happily I knew of someone nearby who wants to get a colony for a top-bar hive, so a quick phone call and a deal was struck! They are still in a National box on top of a top-bar hive at the moment. We had hoped to get them installed this week-end, but the weather is dire again.
My neighbours are happy to have a second colony in their garden, so I now have three. Result!!
Friday, 13 May 2011
On Friday afternoon, I took advantage of a break in the weather to go through the hive. There were still plenty of bees, brood and stores. As the hive was still so full I was concerned about cast swarms, especially as there were around a dozen capped queen cells visible! I took the opportunity to remove them from the conversion hive, doing a chop'n'crop (demonstrated here) to remove the frames, and split them between two new Kenyan Top-Bar Hives, one 3 foot (which will stay in the garden) and the other, 4 foot (which is being moved to a friends house where they will hopefully help pollinating his fruit trees.
Sunday, 17 April 2011
Plenty of stores left, brood at all stages, capped drone brood even spotted the queen (briefly). They seem to be expanding rapidly. All remained very calm throughout (although I was quite excited). One piece of crossed comb fell into the bottom of the hive (about 4 square inches). Upon removal, it contained honey that was almost ready for capping. Just enough for one slice of toast! Delicious! I'm looking forward to a little more soon!
Workers continued to fly from the entrance and most went below the bars as they were closed up. For the reluctant ones, I closed the bars up to a bee space, then used a piece of card to gently push them down, close the bars onto the card, remove the card then finally close the bars completely. All very easy and they didn't seem to mind.
A look in the debris on the bottom board showed a drop of 3 varroa mites over 5 days! No action needed!
Next objective will be to get them out of the conversion hive!
Sunday, 27 March 2011
A brief check in the hive on Friday showed that they have plenty of pollen and honey stored with fresh nectar being brought in. Great news as this means they are raising young. The new season begins and all seems well with their world!
I could happily sit and watch them coming and going all day, but I had to drag myself away to make a start on the garden or we'll be short of vegetables this year! I could still hear them working though.....
Saturday, 26 February 2011
The bees were out and about. I assumed they were on cleansing flights, but some were bringing back some pollen!
A check of the locality and of my pollen chart showed that it was from Yellow Crocus (light orange colour). There are a few around in gardens, neighbours and ours.
I was surprised that they seem to have been flying around and over Snow-drops (pink pollen, loads of flowers) to get to the crocuses! I'm sure they know what they like, though.
Looks like a nice day coming today. Must get my camera out later!
Saturday, 29 January 2011
A search through Google turned up aluminium sheets that have been recycled form the printing industry at Fragile Planet. I have bought from them before and like their ethical stance with using recycled packaging when they send out purchases. These aluminium sheets are approximately 660 x 570 mm and have some print, possibly on both sides, according to the site, but I ordered 10 and they are all clean on one side.
The converter hive that the bees are currently in has a very wide roof and these sheets are not quite wide enough to completely cover the roof, but the gap is only about 1cm on each side and that is over the overhang of the roof! Two and a half sheets saw the bees protected by a new shiny roof!
A very productive Saturday afternoon!