29 December 2007

Wet, damp and empty...

Visited the hive on Boxing Day, as it happened to be a warm day and we were nearby, walking off the Christmas excesses.

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

Honey Show 2007

WBKA Honey Show 2007 a great success, and although I did not enter any honey for the competition, it was well worth attending. The winners, seen here, are Peter Bowbrick (winner, The Gadge Cup), Maggie Greenleaf (winner, The Gadge Cup 2006), Peter Blashford (judge), Ann Murray (winner, The Jubilee Shield), Fred Howard (winner, John Cook Cup), and Vladimir Burka (winner, Best Mead 2006).
Correct me if I am wrong. I'm used to it...

20 November 2007


http://beeclubpellas.blogspot.com/ Some excellent photos of bees and miscellaneous hymenoptera, such as the drinking bee (Oh Yes!), wasps and yellowjackets as well as an enormous list of blog links. I'm guessing that ΦΩΤΟΓΡΑΦΙΑ ΒΑΡΡΟΑ ΠΑΝΩ ΣΕ ΜΕΛΙΣΣΑ ΣΕ ΗΛΕΚΤΡΟΝΙΚΟ ΜΙΚΡΟΣΚΟΠΙΟ is the Greek for something like "varroa mite seen on a bee through a microscope." The pictures alone are worth a look, even if your Greek is restricted to Demestos-inspired ramblings.


16 November 2007

Feed the bees, tuppence a bag...

Max advises me that another feed of the bees would be a good plan. My last attempt involved the sticky realisation that the syrup was too watery, with a horrible dribble of goo splashing all over the frames. His tip top tip is to shake the feeder upside down before putting it on the crown board.

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

British Blog Directory

British Blog Directory contains a few beekeeping blogs.

14 November 2007

25 October 2007

How little I know: round sections in frames are Old News

Turns out that round sections in hive frames are Old News. In fact, there is pretty much every kind of doohickey, gizmo and and semidemihemispherical customisation you can think of.
The owner of Ross Rounds (http://www.rossrounds.com/), Lloyd Spear, was kind enough to write, "Thank you for your inquiry. We have three dealers in the UK. Thorne, Kemble Bee Supplies, and National Bee Supply. Email for Thorne is gill@thorne.co.uk; Kemble is kbs@btinternet.com; and National is info@beekeeping.co.uk.
"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

Ross Rounds

I *think* these clever circular honeycomb cartridge doohickeys come from Ross Rounds, http://www.rossrounds.com/....

22 October 2007

Round and round the garden

Looking through wikipedia (The Source Of All Knowledge) at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey, I came across this paragraph:
"Comb honey Honey sold still in the original bees' wax comb. Comb honey was once packaged by installing a wooden framework in special honey supers, but this labor intensive method is being replaced by plastic rings or cartridges. With the new approach, a clear cover is usually fitted onto the cartridge after removal from the hive so customers can see the product[citation needed]. "
I guess this refers to the video below.

10 October 2007

Partially inverted beekeeping

Tasting the Waxy Beelegs Honey reminds me - in part because of its consistency - of Golden Syrup.
Would bees like syrup as a feed, I wonder? Could they even digest something that has, effecively, been pre-digested for them?
Consider the following from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invertase):

"Invertase (EC ) (systematic name: beta-fructofuranosidase) is a sucrase enzyme. It catalyzes the hydrolysis (breakdown) of sucrose (table sugar) to fructose and glucose, usually in the form of inverted sugar syrup. For industrial use, invertase is usually derived from yeast. It is also synthesized by bees, who use it to make honey from nectar. Invertase is expensive, so when fructose is required, it may be preferable to make it from glucose using glucose isomerase."

British Sugar's site (http://www.britishsugar.co.uk/RVE8c65eef1771741df814105fe91a6a687,,.aspx) on Golden Syrup says "The term ‘invert’ originates from the effect on the polarimeter instrument traditionally used to analyse sucrose solutions. Compared to pure sucrose, a mixture of glucose and fructose "inverts" the plane of polarised light, and so this is known as invert syrup."
The pic is from Tate & Lyle (http://www.tateandlyle.com/).

09 October 2007

Ngaio's Contrapuntal Summer

Ngaio left this comment, which deserves more air:

"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


Ingredients: Honey (bee spit and body parts, wax).

Waxy Beelegs Honey

My girls have done well: one vat of wax, honey, bee entrails, propolis and dirt!
Extraction took about two hours, starting cautiously at 15 minutes for the first side of two frames. By the end of it, violence and frustration held sway, and I could extract both sides of two frames in about three minutes.
I now have about 10kg of gunge, the ultimate aim of which will be to produce the first ever crop of Waxy Beelegs Honey!

03 October 2007

I cannot think why Paul sold it to me

The only good thing going for this manual extractor ... it's clean.
Well, it was at this stage, anyway.
Made out of thick polythene (like a homebrew beer bucket) and with a metal brace across the top for the winding gear, it is utter rubbish.
The gears do not mesh properly (incorrectly made). To clean it you have to take it to bits using spanners (poor design). The bearing at the bottom protrudes (poor design), which means the whole thing skitters about on the floor (generally useless). The tap at the bottom does not seal properly (poor design). The lid (which comes in two halves) does not seat on the rim properly (poor design).
Apart from that, I cannot think why Paul sold it to me. After I am done, I will chuck it on the muncipal tip.

06 September 2007

Nice hat Clive

Reading the excellent "Practical Beekeeping" by Clive de Bruyn. He writes in a very easy style, and by crikey he knows what he is talking about. Hugely recommended for a member of Densa* like me.
It's a source of constant amazement that I know so little.

Nice hat Clive.

01 September 2007

Super duper

Picked up the top super full of honey and miraculously empty of bees - the Porter escapes had actually worked.

There were a few dopey-looking bees still on the comb, but a quick blast from the smoker (and a few unfortunate gouts of flame, but there you are) and Hey Presto!

The advanced kit list for transport included two black plastic bags and an old wine box, which seems to work well. I replaced the super with one filled with blank foundation. Something tells me that this may be a mistake, as the bees may now expend their remaining energies trying to build up stores when there really isn't any pollen or nectar at this end of the year.

28 August 2007

Waxy Beelegs Honey (reprise)

Had another go at inserting the bee escapes below the topmost super, and this time (I reckon) got it right. The frames are all full of closed cells, so there might be areound 20lbs of Waxy Beelegs Honey on the way.
Pic from www.burtsbees.com, and very jolly it is too...

14 August 2007

There were 75,937 bees.

Once again, as soon as I arrive at the hive, the Heavens Opened, and Lo! I was Sore Annoyed.

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

Fairy Liquid Power Spray

While I fiddle around failing to sort out the bee escapes, take a look at http://www.wwnorton.com/cgi-bin/ceilidh.exe/pob/forum/?C3415104e900A-6409-1073+1d.htm for some nice random beekeepery.

I washed the bee escapes in Fairy Liquid Power Spray. Oh Yes I Did. Best anti-propolis agent known to Incompetence.

05 August 2007

Health & Safety may have to be informed

Visited the apiary, armed with hive tool, brush, spare frames, black plastic bags... You name it, I had it, all ready to remove my first honey-laden super.

Except when I actually pulled the super out, I realised I had put the bee escapes either side of the old brood super on top. The result was that I had a super full of old brood, some very discombobulated drones, and no honey.

Meanwhile, the super immediately above the brood boxes was, sure enough, packed with honey and also packed with bees.

"Oh f-f-fiddlesticks," I said to the bees, and "b-b-bother."

I re-ordered the supers into the correct positions, and will come back all over again to re-insert the escapes and have another go.

Incidentally, the bee escapes are not much cop. In both of them one of the two exits was blocked by a dead worker, and the drones are too big to get out at all. Health & Safety may have to be informed - I mean, what happens if there is a fire?

Pic from http://www.viking-direct.co.uk/, of course.

04 August 2007

OK, next time I'll remember the camera!

Called Peter Bowbrick for advice on the bee escapes, and from the confused description I gave him, it sounded as if all is fine.

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


To start the honey collection process, I have chosen to try to remove the bees from the supers using Porter bee escapes. Not tried these before, and they are mysteriously marked TOP on one side... Inserted a board above and below the topmost super, with the Porter bee escapes in them to allow bees out, not in...

Well, that's the theory, anyway. Apparently it is more usual to put a board with an escape in underneath the super, and put a solid board on the top. Because I don't have any solid boards (note to self: make one!) I had to use a crown board with a bee escape in upside-down.

Unless, of course, I've put them in arsy-versy, in which case all the bees will be trapped.

The boards were put in on Wednesday evening, so Plan A says I collect the super, minus the bees, on Saturday...
Pic stolen from the excellent http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/port.html, David Cushman, who clearly has as many computers as bees.

29 July 2007


Gratifyingly, the bees are all there - not that I counted them or called them by name - and the colony seems none the worse for the move.

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

Peering in every nook and cranny

The regional bee inspector, David Rudland, pointed out during a recent visit that I had a super box where a brood box should be, and vice-versa. D'oh!

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.

Got it?

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

How not to move a hive

Before shifting the hive from the bottom of the garden, it was time to make the girls ready for their move. Step One was to jam foam between the boxes and the outer lifts, to stop things rattling around inside. We like them to be comfy; fine upholsterer's foam.

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

I will miss my bees

One of the regional Bee Inspectors, David Rudland, called yesterday, and by crikey it's impressive watching someone who really knows their craft.

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, 1839January 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.[1]

26 June 2007

Bee inspection

Bee inspection tomorrow, prior to moving the little buzzers into an apiary away from the garden. Having swarmed and cast into two different neighbours' gardens *and* with Number One Junior Beekeeper due to pop out in ten days or so, move they must.

It's a great shame that I won't be able to gaze at them going about their business any longer.

20 June 2007

Bees between the boxes and the lifts

Checked the hive, very briefly in a dry moment during a thunderstorm. I managed to get as far as the top two supers before the heavens parted.

From the ground up, currently the hive is composed of a brood and super, queen excluder, then three supers. The top box has some bees and some foundation being drawn. The next super has full frames of uncapped honey, covered by bees.

The hive was clean, if a bit damp. The only oddity was the number of bees between the boxes and the lifts (it's a WBC). Hmmm. I hope the little buzzers aren't thinking of swarming again!
Pic from http://www.thorne.co.uk/, who supplied my (excellent) hive

15 June 2007

Did you end up requeening then?

Mark posted a comment asking if I had re-queened the colony.

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

If I had a hammer...

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

Touch and go

Checked the hive this morning after a long break, caused principally with poor weather coinciding with weekends.

The brood is still relatively small - five frames only, and the half-brood on top ditto. The end frames have not been drawn out at all. While there is good, regular brood being laid and fresh larvae in the cells, it looks fairly touch and go that the colony will survive.

They swarmed (and cast) during a very hot spell, followed by a rotten two or three weeks. At a guess, there might be only 7,000 bees.

And honey? My target is 10kg... The first super is fully drawn comb now, with some capped cells. At a guess, around 25 per cent of the cells are complete. The top super is absolutely untouched (pictured), and yet these frames were inserted a month ago!

Summary: don't let the bees swarm!

07 May 2007

Mordern Hall Park Show

Working hard on the SBKA and WBKA stand at the Mordern Hall Park Show... Wanda to the left, Val to the right. I wangled free entry to the fair by showing my Beekeepers' Association Membership card. Don't leave home without it.

05 May 2007

Waxy Beelegs Honey

It smells of honey, looks like honey and by golly it is honey. It's full of bee legs, propolis and wax, and tastes great!

I can see the labels now: "Waxy Beelegs Honey."

01 May 2007


Hive inspection this morning... not good news. Only enough bees to cover four frames in the brood box, and I could see no signs of larvae in other cells. The one uncapped queen cell did not seem to have a larva in it either, so the colony may be in terminal decline.

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

Bees 2, Incompetent Beekeeper 0

Well, I put it down to the very warm weather and the abundance of nectar and pollen... the bees have swarmed *again*, the little buzzers!

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 they had swarmed

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

Bees in the Antipodes

Ngaio has sent me a link to her excellent site "Bees in the Antipodes."

She asked me "You sound like me - I am still trying to sort out how to hold smoker ( preferably going),hive tool and camera, with huge bulky gloves on whilst opening hive.. any ideas ?"

Well, speaking from a position of profound Incompetence, (a) I forgot the camera last time anyway, and (b) I wear lovely yellow Marigold brand washing-up gloves, so it's a bit easier - and I use a tripod for the camera.

The secret to the smoker is cardboard, and LOTS of it. When we caught the swarm, Peter (formerly a Regional Bee Inspector) stuffed his smoker with cardboard and had a mini-inferno on his hands before closing up and smoking with it.

By the way, Ngaio is in Aotearoa, New Zealand. How about that!


After this week's swarming debacle, tomorrow is the first inspection of the depleted hive. Who needs Colony Collapse Disorder when the bees PUFO* of their own accord, eh?

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

See how they swarm

Watch how, with the queen bee inside the box, all the workers are magnetically drawn inside. Amazing!

Did they like the Cheesy Wotsit flavour?

Swarming: You gotta start somewhere

Drama! Excitement! Incompetence!

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.

Moral? Incompetence.

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

Tainted honey

Pic of two weeks' worth of Apiguard take-up.

When I mentioned at the recent WBKA meeting that the Apiguard had been in the hive, there was a kind of collective intake of hushed breath and clenching of buttocks. It is a Bad Thing to leave the Apiguard in the hive while the bees are making honey, as the thyme extract taints the honey.

Ah well. Incompetence will triumph...

09 April 2007

Time to read up

Along with Colony Collapse Disorder and the Spring Dwindling, I had been expecting the hive to be less busy, or even dead... No way!

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

A bright, blue cold sunny Sunday

The weather is annoyingly variable. Yesterday morning was beautifully warm, with the bees buzzin away, while the afternoon was waaaay too cold to open the hive for a peek. Today is a bright, blue cold and sunny Sunday, with only a few bees venturing out; too nippy to check the hive.

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

Sunday 25 March 2007

First honey and sardine bees

Very exciting, first honey - thankfully all due to massive Incompetence!

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

Lotties (this one's down Richmond way)

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!

25 February 2007


Discovered: http://www.beedata.com/ a useful collection of information and links, particularly the news page

21 February 2007

Hive Mind

Discovered: http://www.hive-mind.com/bee/blog/


Discovered http://turlough.blogspot.com/

Hornet death squads menace

The French honey industry is under threat from hoards of bee-massacring oriental hornets, the Daily Telegraph reports.
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

Mysterious illness stings beekeepers

FROM http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070215/BIZ/702150353/1020/NATION

(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

Bees on the web

This is a loooong 10min video of a beekeeper catching a swarm. Ignore the first half, the camera is all over the place: I suggest you start watching from five minutes and onwards http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RBL9vnhRag

Bristol bees

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.


The mathematics of beekeeping

The queen lays around 1,500 eggs a day, peak season. Assuming 100% breeding success, in a typical month of thirty days she produces 45,000 new bees (1,500 x 30).

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.

07 February 2007


Very cold today - and an extremely hard frost, as this picture absolutely fails to show. BeeCraft magazine and our own WBKA newsletter full of dire warnings about overwintering and the likelihood that come the end of March they'll all be dead.

01 February 2007

Good work fella

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.

http://www.bee-craft.com/ and http://www.cheshire-bka.co.uk/ (great site)

12 January 2007

Bee resolutions

Two new year resolutions:

1> Pull a finger out and wrap the chicken wire round the hive
2> Harvest at least 10kg of honey this year

I might add "Don't get stung again," but that seems a step too far!