Saturday, 10 November 2012

The beginning of the end for Neonicotinoids in the UK?

I'm not convinced that it will have any effect on our government, but the case against neonicotinoid pesticides that is being  placed before the House of Commons Select Committee has been published on the House of Commons web site.   

Well worth a read. Although there's a lot of information there to digest, most of it is not too technical.

I hope our leaders find it as disturbing as I do!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Defensive Colony

One of the colonies has been getting more defensive lately, to the point where a bee stung the owner of the land they are on for walking through his front door! Time to re-queen.....

New queen sourced and delivered. Off to the apiary with a friend to find and remove the old queen and put the new queen in the hive. Knowing how defensive these bees are, my friend and I both had unusual levels of protection; leather gloves, wellington boots etc. A few combs into the hive it became apparent that there were less bees around and they were not being at all defensive, then we found out why......
Queen cup and open queen cell

Yes, the angry queen had left with a swarm and there was no sign of a new queen or brood in the hive. Still plenty of bees though! I fear she has failed to mate.

I really must get the bees a beekeeping book so that they know what they should be doing! ;-)

The new queen in now in the hive, still in the queen cage. Hopefully she'll be accepted by the colony and all will return to normal.

If we had seasonal weather as we should, beekeeping would be a lot easier! After eight weeks of cool and rainy weather we have a few days of summer weather forecast, at last! If that carries on until the end of October (!) I may get away without feeding to get them through the winter!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Want to build your own Top-Bar Hive?

If you would like to build your own Top-Bar Hive, but don't have the tools or facilities, there is an opportunity to join a small group at Brinscall Hall (near Chorley in Lancashire) who I will be leading through the process. At the end of the two days you will have everything you need , but the hive will need weather protection, options for which will be discussed during the week-end.

Some tools will be available to use, or you can bring your own. You are free to supply your own wood (cutting lists for a three foot hive or a four foot hive are available to download from the Brinscall Hall web site).

This will take place over the week-end of October 27th and 28th, 2012. Accommodation is available to book at the time of booking th course.

There will also be opportunities to discuss any other aspects of Natural Beekeeping.

Further details are available on the Brinscall Hall web pages.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Bumbles too!

I made contact through the Natural Beekeeping forum with someone who had a bumble bee nest in a bird nest box. He also has a one-year-old daughter who has mistaken bumble bees for spiders and tried to pick them up. He was adamant (understandably) that the bees had to go!

I explained that the bumbles had probably been attracted to the box as he had "given the birds a start with a nest" by adding some dog hair to the box. Bumbles love fur in their nest!

I offered to remove them on the condition that I could take them in the nest box, as removal from the box would be virtually impossible!

The nest box had been there for some time and att
aching screws were rusty, so the box was sawn from it's supporting post. The nest box was placed in a fabric bag and driven home. The new site was decided upon and the box attached.

The next morning the bees were flying happily having exhibited a similar orientation flight to honey bees, but a few days later there were none to be seen.

I've no idea what they were up to, but a week later I was looking at the box, wondering if I should take it back down and clean it out, when three bees "buzzed" me on their way back into the box. That made the bee guardian very happy! They have since been flying every day between the rain drizzle and obviously more willing to fly in worse conditions than honey bees!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Bait Hive Activity

......Then, as if to prove there are bees preparing to swarm, loads of interest in the two bait hives at home....

Monday, 28 May 2012

Swarm season - at last

The swarm season is late starting this far north, but it's here at last!

The first swarm call of the season - there are bees in a tree in a farm-yard, am I interested, the owner has ladders for access. Am I interested? Of course!! Contact a friend with an empty Warre hive to see if he wants to help and give the bees a home, collect some gear together and off we go.

Upon arrival at the farm and a quick look suggests a very small cast on a main branch of the tree, but the owners first comment is "there are a lot less bees than earlier".

Up the ladder for a closer look and they are making their way into a hole in the tree. They've found a new home on their own! The owners of the property seem quite pleased with their new status as bee guardians and are happy to keep us informed of t
he bees progress A quick explanation of the benefits of survivor bees and they say they will allow bait hives to be positioned next year (assuming they thrive) ready for when they swarm again.

So, no bees for the Warre today, but the promise of swarms from a feral colony is excellent news! Bees that can survive without our intervention are good stock to breed from!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Bee Friendly Zones

With all of the focus on honeybees, it's easy to forget all of the other pollinators that are also important to our food supplies and under the same threats from intensive farming and pesticides.

At this time of the year we are all beginning to focus on our gardens and what to plant. We can all help by choosing pollinator friendly plants. The link to Bee Friendly Zones on the left of the page takes you to a site that is rich in resources, like lists of garden flowers, wild flowers, shrubs, herbs & trees that bees will feed on. Most are good for other pollinators too. For instance, if you plant comfrey the nectar is not readily available to honeybees or bumble bees, but bumble bees will chew a small hole into the base of the flower to feed. Honeybees cannot chew through the flower, but will find the holes made by bumblebees and use it to collect the nectar!

I had great success last year with a rais
ed bed dedicated to phacelia, corn flowers and poppys. The hum from that bed could be heard from 20 feet away!

Bees feeding on Phacelia

There is also thyme growing between crazy paving. Bees love th thyme, it smells great as you walk over it and you can use it in the kitchen!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

New Life, New Venture

I am lucky enough to have been offered voluntary redundancy and early retirement from my employer. My only concern is what to do with myself after retirement! She Who Must Be Obeyed is sure to develop long lists of things that need to be done, but I aim to pace myself with chores so that I can spend some time enjoying doing what I enjoy!

One idea is to get a dog. That will cover a few bases - walking, exercise and love of dogs!
I'd also like to encourage others into Natural Beekeeping. One obstacle I've heard from a few people is that they cannot build a top-bar hive. Whether it's a lack of time, tools or ability is irrelevant. I enjoy building hive, so is the result. This is certainly not a get rich plan: just compare prices on the internet! I aim to cover my expenses (I hope!) and have a little beer money left over.

The intention is to build the hive that you want, not have a "one size fits all" hive. I'm happy to discuss what you want, what the bees need and what I can do. I will not be cutting any wood until I have an order, so the result should be completely to the specification that we agree.

The First Commission

If you would like to visit to discuss your needs or to see my hives in action, please get in touch, via the web-site - the kettle's never far from boiling!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

First Spring Checks

Good news:
All three hives have made it through the winter. The hive that was started from a nuc in June is not in great shape, but if the weather is kind they should be OK.

Today has been a mild and sunny day, about 12C. All I have done is check that bees are flying and cleaned and oiled the bottom boards so I can do a Varroa check next week.

This is the weaker hive in action. Note the fly sneaking in..... It was chased out moments after I finished filming!

Bad news:
The nuc that went to friends nearby has died. It seems that they ran out of stores in the last week. All that was left in the hive was bees with heads deep in the combs. No sign of disease, so that at least is a positive. Of course, they now have plenty of comb to use for bait hives so all is not lost.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Talking to the local Beekeepers Association

Before the talk I felt like I was going into the lion's den! I had no need to worry, though. The talk went well and although there were quite a few challenging questions there was a great deal of interest shown by the group.

I used the presentation that I have used before as a base to talk around and took along an empty hive to demonstrate. Although many of the questions were quite probing, all were presented in a friendly way. The hive attracted a great deal of interest and questions. Possibilities for manipulations were discussed extensively and some found it hard to believe that bees would work along a horizontal hive, as they have been told so many times that bees only go upwards to find honey!

The biggest compliment of the afternoon was to be invited to return next year to talk again and give an up-date on progress throughout the year!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Bottom Board Details

I've had a request for more details of the bottom board that I use and how I count Varroa on it.
The board is just a plank with 8mm quadrant section beading attached around the edges, with the vertical side on the outside.

Bottom Board with Edge Beading

Length and width of the board are the same as the OUTSIDE edge of the hive bottom. A sheet of paper (graph paper makes counting varroa easier) can be cut to fit inside the lip of the board. I also wet the paper with olive oil, which holds it in position and sticks fallen varroa to it to prevent them from re-entering the hive. I've also just spread the oil onto the bottom board without paper, it tends to soak into the wood though.

To hold the bottom board in place I use a very simple, cheap method - 4 screws and 2 lengths of copper wire!
Entrance Side of Hive

Window Side of Hive

Screws with a plain (un-threaded) shank under the head are best to avoid damage to the wire. I wrap the wire 3 or 4 turns around the screw on the entrance side of the hive, and that never gets disturbed. On the window side, one turn of the wire is enough to hold the bottom board in position. Leaving the wire slack will lower the bottom board for ventilation, pulling it tight before twisting around the screw will close the bottom of the hive for cold / windy conditions.

I've heard of hinged bottom boards, but my fear is that hive rubbish and dead varroa will fall off before being checked.

I've found that the board can be held by pushing it gently with one hand against the hive bottom while releasing or attaching the wires, then both hands can hold it level for removing without dropping anything off of it.

Hope that is clear and helps. Please feel free to adapt t
his idea in any way you see fit.