29 December 2007
The hive was suspiciously quiet, and I had a bad feeling about it as soon as I clapped eyes on it. The lack of activity at the front and damp-looking entrance bars made me fear the worst. I popped the lid off and prised off the crown board, and could see nothing and hear nothing. Oh dear.
After thriving (and swarming) in my back garden, the hive was moved in July, and is now sited under some trees at the back of Cannizaro Park (http://www.cannizaropark.org.uk/history.htm). There have been some wicked frosts recently, but my guess is that the damp location, with very little sunlight, might have been my undoing. The bees *had* taken all their winter syrup feed, and had clearly been active subsequently. Not any more, though. Maybe March will prove me wrong...
04 December 2007
25 November 2007
23 November 2007
20 November 2007
19 November 2007
16 November 2007
The next tip is not to leave the feeder on the hive all winter (which I did last year). He reckons that the plastic bucket traps condensation and is better removed as soon as the girls have had their fill.
Pic stolen from http://www.marypoppinsthemusical.co.uk/ I saw the show - *excellent* with an outstanding and truly remarkable performance from Scarlett Strallen in the title role
14 November 2007
01 November 2007
Bees for Development
Canaries in a Coalmine
Global Swarming Honey Bees
Hive Mind Honey
Mountain Musings on Bees and Life
The Barefoot Beekeeper
The Daily Green Saves the Bees
31 October 2007
Karşı Kıyı Arıcıları (Chaniabee)
Karşı Kıyı Arıcıları (Kostas)
Karşı Kıyı Arıcıları (BeeHappy)
Karşı Kıyı Arıcıları (Markos)
Karşı Kıyı Arıcıları (Zepos)
Karşı Kıyı Arıcıları (Kokkini)
Karşı Kıyı Arıcıları (Melissas)
Karşı Kıyı Arıcıları (Melissaki)
Queen Spark Bees
Gerry Gomez Pearlberg
25 October 2007
"I am a little surprised that you have not seen them in shops. We spend a couple of weeks in the Midlands about five years ago and were very pleased to see them several times. They are fun to produce, and a lot easier than the wood sections.
"All the best, Lloyd Spear, Owner"
23 October 2007
22 October 2007
12 October 2007
11 October 2007
10 October 2007
09 October 2007
"Shame about the extractor, I brought one today, along with a great amount of bee gear from a dear friend who has to give up his hives after 60 odd years due to failing eye sight. Bernard had made this 4-sided machine operated extractor and its a dream to use - will post pics after extraction of first frames for this year, during the week."
Ngaio is down under (or up over, depending on your world-view), so we enjoy contrapuntal summers.
Visit her site http://miro-ngaio.blogspot.com/ which is waaaay better than Incompetence will allow.
04 October 2007
03 October 2007
06 September 2007
01 September 2007
28 August 2007
14 August 2007
The Master Plan (hah!) had been to have another crack at inserting a board with bee escapes to clear the top super of bees prior to taking the honey in a couple of days.
The best I could do was open the hive, drown a few bees in the downpour, realise that the cells are not in any case fully capped, close it all up and scarper. It was so wet that there was no point trying a full hive inspection.
Rain Man. That's me. There were 75,937 bees.
13 August 2007
07 August 2007
05 August 2007
04 August 2007
The piece I was missing was a solid crown board, one with no holes. Apparently it is more usual to put a solid board on top of the topmost super, and put a board with bee escape underneath it - hence you only need one bee escape, with the word TOP on, er, the top.
In my case, because I had no solid top board, I resorted to a board with an upside-down bee escape in it.
OK, next time I'll remember the camera!
03 August 2007
29 July 2007
I did notice that in my haste I had not put the outer lifts (the boards that give the WBC hive its pleasing traditional ziggurat appearance) on properly last time. Apart from a little shimmying around, the next step is to start clearing the bees with the boards and bee escapes.
Small admission: that's what I meant to do today, and forgot.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziggurat: "A ziggurat (Akkadian ziqqurrat, D-stem of zaqāru "to build on a raised area") is a temple tower of the ancient Mesopotamian valley and Iran, having the form of a terraced pyramid of successively receding stories." Nothing like a WBC hive, then.
23 July 2007
What I hadn't realised was that the spacing of frames in brood boxes and supers is different. To encourage bees to produce and store more honey, frames in supers are further apart - and muggins here had them all jumbled up.
So I swapped the boxes around. What was the topmost super is now the half-brood (above the main brood box), what was the super formerly used as a half-brood is now the first super (on top of the brood-and-a-half), and what was the first super on top of the brood-and-a-half is now the topmost super.
Since I was moving a super-used-as-brood, I wanted to be sure that the Queen was not on or in the box when I moved it, or she would end up in the wrong place. Naturally, I couldn't find her, despite peering in every nook and cranny.
More next week when I return to insert crown boards and bee escapes so I can take off my first ever honey. I'll soon find out if the Queen is in the wrong place!
03 July 2007
Step One went Very Well.
Step Two was to seal the front of the hive by closing the entrance bars and then taping them in place so the bees cannot leave. Step Two went Very Badly. Even with the tape on, the bees came out through many gaps. Fellow removal man JJ was stung twice, through thick gardening gloves, the mean little buzzers.
Change of plan: stuff the hive entrance with foam, too. This *would have* gone well, except the Heavens Opened and Lo, we were Drenched, as were the bees and the sticky tape, which would now not even stick to itself, let alone a damp hive.
Imagine at this point two very, very soggy beekeepers, bits of foam and gaffer tape spread around the area, and lots of very, very annoyed bees trying to sting us big time. JJ was stung twice more.
Nasty little buggers.
We finally stuffed and taped the entrance, put a tarpaulin over the top and roped up the entire thing (and retired for a respite from the torrential downpour with occasional lightning).
Things went from wet and frustrating to downright cussed: we discovered that the hive did not fit in the van. I said, "Oh, bother." Of course, we could have measured up beforehand, but that would have been tantamount to stopping to ask for directions.
Had to unrope the whole shebang, take the lid of the hive off, and put the tarp and ropes back on, relying solely on the tarp to keep the bees in, and try again. Well, at least the hive did now fit into the van, and the bee-tight efforts *sort of* worked. Bees wriggled past the foam and tarpaulin continuously, so by the time we arrived at the apiary, we had perhaps 500 buzzing around in the van.
On the journey, a bee stung me, the bitch.
At the apiary, we cleared the ground briefly, settled the hive, unroped and unwrapped it and replaced the lid. When all else was clear, we reopened the front, and the air absolutely filled with bees. BOY, were they upset! Serves them right.
After five minutes they seemed to calm down, and we left them for the night. The new apiary is about three miles from home. They are bees. They will be fine. They are insects, without love or moral compass.
I will miss my bees.
28 June 2007
In the time it takes me simply to take the lid off, he was down into the brood nest, checking cells, pulling out wax moths and deformed larvae... you name it, he did it. The entire inspection took about an hour, looking principally for American and European Foul Brood. The hive was clear, although he did find wax moths, bald brood and varroa.
The next part is to move the colony into an apiary; I will miss my bees.
William David Rudland (February, 1839 – January 10, 1912) was a British Protestant missionary to China with the China Inland Mission. He was one of the pioneer missionaries that were recruited in the early years of the agency by Hudson Taylor. Serving over forty years in China, Rudland translated the New Testament into the Taizhou vernacular (a romanized version), and published the work at the printing press that he operated with a native helper. In the year 1906 alone, Rudland's press (that had been brought over with the Lammermuir Party in 1866) printed 1000 Psalms with references, 500 copies of Genesis, 2000 Chinese character tracts, and 20,000 other Chinese character books.
26 June 2007
It's a great shame that I won't be able to gaze at them going about their business any longer.
20 June 2007
15 June 2007
No. After the second swarm (the cast), we left a single queen cell only. This queen must have emerged and mated successfully, as the hive is now thriving again. There is new brood in a good regular pattern, and the number of bees is increasing.
04 June 2007
Discovered that it's actually easier to put frames together if you use grippers rather than hammers with the nails. The wood is so soft (and sticky) that it's simple to place the pins and then squeeze everything into place in a nice, tight fit.
03 June 2007
07 May 2007
05 May 2007
04 May 2007
03 May 2007
01 May 2007
During the inspection, I was careful to move gently. Even so, the bees were quite fierce, bumping into the veil and generally buzzing around angrily. I think this behaviour is a sign of being queenless. I'll leave it for a week and see what transpires.
Curiously, there is tons of activity in terms of foraging. Hmmm. Bamboozled.
30 April 2007
The cast (as such as secondary swarm is called) was probably on Sunday 29 April - I was away. By the time I heard about it from yet another stressed neighbour, the swarm had upped and gone, with only a few stragglers left.
I looked at the hive from the outside, and it seems busy enough, so I may yet be able to produce some honey (my target is 10kg) and recover some dignity.
Bees 2, Incompetent Beekeeper 0
16 April 2007
You would never know that the bees had just swarmed; the hive is still absolutely full to bursting. The top photo is the super, the next is the brood, and the last is a queen cell (well, I think it's a queen cell...)
14 April 2007
From the outside, the hive looks as busy as ever. I could be lucky, and find that the remaining bees have re-queened themselves, and that she has flown off and mated. Everything could be both hunky and dory.
On the other hand, the workers might have started laying, the new queen might not be mated, or a cast (sort of mini-swarm) might be in preparation. Or there may be too few bees remaining for a viable colony, and they will simply dwindle away.
Naturally, if the ringleader is still in the hive, I'll have to give her a darn sharp talking-to.
*Pack Up and Fly Off, a well-known beekeeping term.
11 April 2007
Sure enough, the bees swarmed today - bugger! Around 40,000 of them took off at about 3pm, sending neighbours, dogs and pregnant wife into paroxysms, fits and panics. I arrived home to find them, with help from the outstanding Mr Peter Bowbrick, swarming up a neighbour's fence (the bees, that is, not Peter).
After much cussing, we (mainly Peter) managed to persuade the little buzzers into a cardboard box, and took them off to Morden Hall Apiary.
From my hive inspection on Monday, two days ago, I had managed to overlook queen cells (which there must be). I had correctly guessed that the bees were about to swarm, and yet I had not managed to prevent it...
Oh well. Capturing a swarm was great learning, as was throwing them into a new hive. You gotta start somewhere.
10 April 2007
09 April 2007
During an early inspection this hot Easter weekend (8am - the bees fairly sluggish), I found (a) bees building comb up the outside of the hive between the lifts and the boxes, (b) the super with foundation added last week almost completely built up into comb and (c) the brood and super, acting as a combined brood box, absolutely jammed with brood.
This was a full inspection, right down to brushing the hive floor, examining the brood comb and generally sorting out stuff. As far as I can tell, the main problem is that there is no problem. They are BUZZING!
Time to read up on what's happening. I have a sneaky feeling that they are about to swarm. Lots of drone cells, though I could not find any queen cells. To keep them busy, I have replaced one brood frame with a new blank frame of foundation.
Disappointingly little comedy Incompetence. I managed to gas myself with the smoker, with no effect on the bees, and several times had to traipse back to the shed having forgotten some key piece of equipment. No pictures this time, I forgot the camera.
01 April 2007
Thank you to Green Lovin' Gal for her kind, gnarled comments about the bee videos. Couldn't agree more. (GLG has an excitingly diverse site about allotments; the most recent entries mainly concern a new baby, Clara (niece?), shots of friends and rellies persuaded to do the dirty digging, and painting her shed: www.anallotmentsnotjustforchristmas.blogspot.com). Good work gel.
25 March 2007
Having crammed the bees into one brood and one super for the winter, and done nothing by way of inspecting the colony yet this year, it turns out that they are bursting out of the beehive. They have been building extra 'wild' comb in the space above the crownboard - hence the picture.
Because this piece of comb was poking out through the crown board, I had to level it off to be able to add a new super (see below) to give them enough room - and Lo, the comb was full of delicious sweet honey! Wow-wee!
I opened the hive purely to insert the queen excluder and slip in a tray of Apiguard (http://www.vita-europe.com/). The first thing I saw, apart from the feeder left on over the winter, was this chunk of comb sticking up. It's almost translucently pure, and smells wonderful.
Remedial action for the squashed-in-like-sardines bees? I removed the crown board, added the queen excluder to the top of the super (ie, giving the colony both the brood box and the super for living quarters), and then added another super on top of that, with the crown board on top as usual. The Apiguard tray is resting on top of the queen excluder, on the basis that the bees will be coming up past it to fill the top super.
Incidentally, last year (2006), Apiguard was the only treatment applied to the hive, and the colony is positively thriving.
13 March 2007
Green Lovin' Gal reports from her allotment that only one beekeeper is permitted on the site. Green Lovin' Gal wants to keep bees, and the Committee won't let her, the miserable gits. Visit http://anallotmentsnotjustforchristmas.blogspot.com/ to cheer her up!
08 March 2007
25 February 2007
21 February 2007
The forests of Aquitaine, in south-west France, now play host to swarms of the the Asian Hornet, Vespa velutina, which is believed to have arrived there "from the Far East in a consignment of Chinese pottery in late 2004".
Entomogist Jean Haxaire, who first eyeballed the invaders, said: "Their spread across French territory has been like lightning."
Haxaire said he's now counted 85 "football-shaped" nests across the 40 miles which separate the towns of Marmande and Podensac "in the Lot et Garonne department where the hornets were first spotted".
The Asian Hornet can cause some serious damage to a human, "inflicting a bite which has been compared to a hot nail entering the body". But that's not the principal threat they pose. They can decimate a nest of 30,000 bees "in a couple of hours" in search of larvae on which to feed their young. This, unsurprisingly, gives local beekeepers serious cause for alarm.
The hornets are just the latest blow to the French beekeeping industry. Pesticides and hot summers have taken their toll on bee populations, and a spokesman for the French National Bee Surveillance Unit said the winter mortality rate among bees had risen to six in ten.
Accordingly, honey production has been hit hard - down 60 per cent in south-western France in the last 10 years. The country's 1.3 million hives, managed by 80,000 beekeepers, are unable to supply demand and France now imports 25,000 tonnes of honey annually.
The Bee Surveillance spokesman lamented: "The arrival of these hornets has made the situation considerably worse. The future of our entire industry is at stake."
In Britain, meanwhile, it looks like we'd better start stockpiling honey. Stuart Hine, manager of the Insect Information Service at London's Natural History Museum, warned: "There's no doubt that these hornets are heading north and will probably find their way to Britain at some point."
There is, however, some hope for Blighty. While Hine confirmed climate change meant the hornets would find summers very much to their liking, "they would still have difficulty coping with our winter frosts". ®
BootnoteApparently, 40 people die each year in France as a result of hornet stings, "mainly because of allergic reactions". Claire Villement, of France's Natural History Museum, has called for calm and asked citizens not to succumb to "national panic about killer wasps". "The legend that three bites from a hornet can kill you are totally false. People can still enjoy their picnics in the countryside."
As seen in both The Register http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/02/21/killer_hornets/ and in The Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=DI3TUYKFGGADXQFIQMFCFF4AVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2007/02/21/whornets21.xml
15 February 2007
(Sent to me by Jim Burke, The Bronze Group, LLC, www.thebronzegroup.com - thank you, Jim)
Scientists looking into a mysterious ailment killing off honeybees are hoping to find answers out West, where bees are currently helping pollinate California's profitable almond crop.
Beekeepers from around the country each year flock to the Golden State this time of year, releasing their insects to jump-start the $1.4 billion California almond crop.
Researchers hope the diversity gives them a large sample from which to figure out why some bees remain healthy while others become afflicted with an illness called colony collapse disorder.
The ailment has killed off tens of thousands of honeybee colonies in at least 21 states, researchers said, threatening the livelihood of commercial beekeepers and potentially putting a strain on fruit growers and other farmers that rely on bees to pollinate their crops.
The expedition to California couldn't have come at a better time for researchers scrambling for answers. About half of the nation's available commercial bees are transported to California each February for the task, when trees burst with light pink-and-white blossom.
Marsha Venable, spokeswoman for the Almond Board of California, which represents growers, said a group task force assigned to monitor the situation found that there was no bee shortage this year.
"There's a sense of comfort of enough bees to do the job," Venable said Monday by phone. California accounts for 80 percent of the world's almonds, according to that state's food and agriculture department.
But bee researchers from Pennsylvania and Montana who have spent the last couple weeks in California collecting test samples said they have heard stories of beekeepers having lost colonies by the thousands, forcing them to return home with no work and few bees.
"One yard had colonies that were failing. One was one of the worst cases we've seen," University of Montana bee researcher Jerry Bromenshenk said in a phone interview Monday. "That's why we are all focused in California at this point."
Michigan had first signs of illness
The first report of colony collapse disorder came to researchers at Penn State University in November, though scientists now think that the problem may have been around as early as a couple years ago.
Bromenshenk is also president of Bee Alert Technology Inc., a Missoula, Mont.-based firm that is surveying beekeepers to determine the geographic extent of the problem.
While there are no definitive answers, he said survey results so far show the first signs of the illness may have popped up in Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa.
12 February 2007
Bristol Zoo (http://www.bristolzoo.org.uk/) has an unusual beehive: three frames set one above the other in a glass case. The top comb, not seen here, was covered with active bees. I spotted a not particularly big queen, marked with a green dot. The middle comb, in the video, had relatively few bees on it and the foundation was incomplete as you can see. The lowest frame was empty of bees and was very dark, old comb.
You can see in from both glass sides, though not very clearly. There were probably not more than a few thousand bees in total. It was a very cold day (Sunday 11 February), but the bees were flying. I suspect the colony was fooled by the warmth of the hive, which is inside.
I'm guessing that the summer peak season lasts for four months, with an average of 1,500 eggs/day. For the remaining eight months, let's say there are four months of not-so-peak egg laying of 750 eggs/day on average, and four months of very little activity of 375 eggs/day on average.
If the figures are roughly correct, yearly egg production might be like this:
4 months x 30 days x 1,500 eggs/day = 180,000
4 months x 30 days x 750 eggs/day = 90,000
4 months x 30 days x 375 eggs/day = 45,000
An amazing 315,000 bees produced per year.
In winter, if the queen is producing low numbers of eggs or even none at all, the hive comes perilously close to extinction, because the bees will be dying more quickly than she is laying. During winter, the bees must live longer, or the hive would die off.
Looked at another way, if the queen lasts five years, she produces more than 1,500,000 eggs during her lifetime.
11 February 2007
10 February 2007
07 February 2007
01 February 2007
From BeeCraft, The Official Journal of the British Beekeepers' Association, February 2007, in the article "Wirral Beekeepers' Polish Expedition 2006," page 13:
"During the last evening in the hotel the group danced to a local duo till the early hours and then set off the next day to travel north again. The hotel had to send out for another barrel of beer and the staff said the bar takings were the best ever."
Hats off to article author Doug Jones, Secretary, Wirral Branch, Cheshire Beekeepers' Association. Good work fella.