09 December 2008

Incipient Granulation

Entered two jars into the Wimbledon Beekeeper's Association Annual Honey Show.

It might be fair to say that I came last. "Incipient Granulation" were the killer words - especially the capitalisation.

Never mind. I forecast an entry into the "Set Honey" category next year...

21 November 2008

Christmas Calendar

This is from Nancy Candlin, Riverford Home Delivery, 1 The Mission Hall, 49 The Grove, Crouch End, N8 8ST, 020 8341 3039:

"As you may have read, bees, and in particular the honey bee, are under serious threat from pests and diseases, and are dying out at a frightening rate.

Without the honey bee, our crops won’t be pollinated and thus our food supply reduced radically. As a farm, we owe an enormous amount to this tiny busy insect, and are completely reliant on it.

With this in mind, I am giving all the profits from every Riverford calendar I sell to the British Bee Keepers’ Association which are funding research into saving the bee. The calendars make a great and colourful gift so buy more than one and rest assured that you are helping the bee!

Please pass the word around. If you are a regular customer, just add the calendar(s) to your order and I will arrange the rest. If you aren’t a customer or don’t wish to buy anything else, simply send a cheque for £6.35 made payable to Riverford Home Delivery, including your own name and address, and I will post out the calendar(s)."

20 October 2008

25 September 2008

Oscar Wetterblad

In case you were wondering, the "Death by Sting" data was found by Oscar Wetterblad, who is Swedish and has his own web site, http://www.wetterblad.com/oscar.html

16 September 2008

A short history of robbing

Went to check the hives, add anti-varroa treatments, remove the feeders and settle the bees for the winter.
As I packed up, carelessly as it turned out, a great gob of sugar solution dropped out of a feeder, SPLAT, on top of the frames and dribbled right through down to the floor.
Within moments, the air was FULL of robbers, with a no-holds-barred wrestling free-for-all at the hive entrance.
So, all things considered, preparing for winter went, er, well...

11 September 2008

What the bees know and what they do not know

Much as I admire L. Fejes Tóth, bees do not build hexagonal cells. They build tubular cells of circular cross-section, and follow closest hexagonal packing (with some clever rhomboid-stuff at the base).

So http://projecteuclid.org/DPubS/Repository/1.0/Disseminate?view=body&id=pdf_1&handle=euclid.bams/1183526078 there.

03 September 2008

No honey at Christmas?

Initial estimates show that English hives produced just 6,000 tons of honey this year - half the usual annual level.

Stuart Bailey, chairman of Rowse honey, which supplies several major supermarket chains, said the company has been able to source just 125 tons of English honey this year forcing it to rely more heavily on foreign suppliers despite rocketing prices.

"We will be out by Christmas there is no doubt about that," he said.


29 August 2008

Parasites Are Killing Off Honeybees

Catherine Jacobs, Environment Correspondent at Sky News, makes a splash with "Parasites Are Killing Off Honeybees."

Sadly, her own story makes the point that this is probably not true. I might also criticise the subs for a dreadful headline.


A trail of freshly ground pepper

Possibly one of the least likely beekeeping gadgets: an electric peppermill with integrated LED torch...

I wanted to check the shed for bee disasters, and the only opportunity was after dark. With no torch handy, the best I could do was the peppermill.

At around 22:30, I crept around the shed looking for angry or dying bees, making whirring noises and leaving a trail of freshly ground pepper.


28 August 2008

The Polish for 'bee' is 'pszczoły'

Collected seventeen frames of honey - all from one hive. Sweet.

All went well - I simply brushed the bees off the frames - until I parked the loaded frames in the shed, back home. It was a hot day, and other bees caught a whiff and started to pile into the shed.

Unfortunately, the shed is being used by half-a-dozen Polish builders during our house renovations. The Polish for 'bee' is 'pszczoły,' though that's certainly not the word the builders were using.

21 August 2008

Computer model of bees probes the hive mind

Extract from New Scientist 16 August 2008:
"GIVEN a choice between two different flower beds, how can honeybees hunting for nectar be sure they've chosen the best patch? A new computer model may provide the answer, as well as insights into the workings of a "hive mind" that could be used to guide swarms of robots.
To test this hypothesis, Ronald Thenius of the University of Graz in Austria built a computer simulation of a hive containing 5000 independent virtual bees. Each forager started out visiting one of two different flower patches, but would switch destinations if it had to wait too long to be unloaded or was being serviced by too many receivers.
The results, presented at the Artificial Life IX conference in Winchester, UK, last week were promising. The virtual bees moved to the better nectar source at similar rates and in similar proportions to those observed for real bees. "It's like a new pub has opened with cheap beer: everyone's trying to find it," says Thenius. "The hive can gain up to 20 per cent more nectar this way."

20 August 2008

A single hive with its bees and full combs of honey can easily be worth a thousand dollars

The recent outbreak of hive theft is not new, it seems. This clip from The Independent online is from 2002 (good to know I'm right up there and current, eh?).

"Angry as the buzzing hives they carried in protest, dozens of Israeli beekeepers lined a road with burning tyres today to demonstrate against the thefts of thousands of their beehives.

Wearing protective work suits and net masks, the beekeepers demanded that Israel and the Palestinian Authority stop what they said was the theft of their beehives by Palestinians in the West Bank.

The demonstrators at Jalameh Checkpoint near the West Bank town of Jenin had planned to release the bees they brought with him as a protest, but police stopped them.

The beekeepers suspect Palestinians are entering Israel by night from the West Bank and making off with the hives, since most of the thefts have taken place in areas near the border between Israel and the West Bank.

"I have nothing against the Palestinians," beekeeper Roni Feldman said. "But Israeli agricultural workers are paying the highest price for peace."

According to Feldman, 2,600 hives were stolen in 1999. A single hive with its bees and full combs of honey can easily be worth a thousand dollars."


03 August 2008

Bees on Bloomberg

Would you believe it, even Bloomberg is up in arms about bees: "Aug. 4 (Bloomberg) -- John Chapple stands among a hum of honeybees flying in and out of 10 hives in the gardens of Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury's London residence by the River Thames. The insects are buzzing. For now.
Eighteen months ago about two-thirds of the 40 hives that Chapple keeps across the capital died off, including all 12 in his own back yard. London's beekeepers collectively lost half of their colonies in the past two years. During last winter alone, almost a third of hives across the U.K. lost their bees."

30 July 2008

Bees join hunt for serial killers

"Bees join hunt for serial killers," adds a tiny snippet to my pitiful store of knowledge:

"The researchers' analysis describes how bees create a "buffer zone" around their hive where they will not forage, to reduce the risk of predators and parasites locating the nest. It turns out that this pattern of behaviour is similar to the geographic profile of criminals stalking their victims."

Dr Nigel Raine, from Queen Mary College, University of London, came up with the theory, based on tagging and observing foraging patterns of bumble bees.

Dr Raine also states "Bees' pollination 'services' account for about one in three mouthfuls of food that we eat as humans. They pollinate a huge diversity of our fruit and vegetable crops."

Does he mean all bees, from bumble to honey, I wonder?

Smart bees

This was published on 15 January this year. Always nice to be up with the news, eh?


23 July 2008

CCD: We are not brought down except by ourselves

Feral bees are subject to nature's ailments: varroa, nosema, acarine, viruses and more. The selective pressure on wild bees is for reproductive success and survival, a heavy element of which is dictated by the ability to resist disease. Hardy bees will tend to be selected.

Commercially kept bees are to some degree insulated from disease. The selective pressure imposed by beekeepers is directed towards honey-making. Productive, unstingy and unswarmy bees will tend to be selected.

Diseases borne by feral bees will, from time to time, transfer to the commercial population. The disease variants will tend to be vigorous (they have contended in an arms race with the much hardier feral bees), and, on some occasions, entirely new to the commercial population.

The result is CCD.

We are not brought down except by ourselves.

21 July 2008

A World Without Bees

A world without bees hunts for the answer to the CCD calamities facing modern commercial beekeeping.

Worth reading, even if the quote from Albert Einstein is utter twaddle.
You can order A world without bees, by Alison Benjamin & Brian McCallum, from http://www.guardianbooks.co.uk/

16 July 2008

Jammy devil (it's all turned out well)

With a little help from Peter B, it turns out that (brace yourself) both hives *do* have brood in them.

Clearly, better eyesight would help, alongside a dose of patience.

As Peter put it, "Despite doing almost everything wrong, both hives are thriving, full of bees, brood and honey. You're a jammy devil."

Pic from http://www.coil.co.uk/

14 July 2008


After consulting with Peter B, things do not look good.

The hive split was on 21 June. If things went well, there should now be new queens (21 June + 16 days = 7 July). Assuming they are mated and laying, the new queens would have started to produce brood cells by now.

On inspection on 12 July, there was no visible brood.


12 July 2008

Now I am *utterly* baffled

To recap: the single original hive had larvae both above and below the queen excluder, so I moved half the frames into a new hive, and (re)placed queen excluders on top of both. The aim was to split the original confused colony into two hives, and hope that the bees would re-queen as necessary.

Well ... it seems to have worked. I now have two thriving colonies. And yet bizarrely, I could find absolutely no trace of brood in either hive.

After a full hive inspection - right down to the bottom board and looking at every frame - I saw no larvae. No drone cells. No queen cells. Yet the bees are very busy, and I even took four frames of honey out of each hive.

What on earth is going on? Now I am *utterly* baffled.

25 June 2008

Time will tell

During the madness of jumbling up the supers and brood frames, my ultimate solution was to split the colony. Failing to think on my feet, I choose to put half of the frames in a new hive, working on the basis of creating an artificial swarm. The basic idea was to end up with one original hive (with a queen) and one new hive (with no queen).

All wonderful. Except I totally forgot to check that the 'new' colony had either queen cells or sufficiently young larvae to allow the bees to bring on a new queen.


Time will tell.

Super photo from http://www.beemaster.com/site/honeybee/qpage.htm a really useful site.

23 June 2008

“Incompetence - When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there's no end to what you can't do.”

Last week, after discovering larvae above the queen excluder, I took time to analyze the possible reasons: (1) two queens {one above, one below the excluder}, (2) laying workers, or (3) a queen able to wriggle through the queen excluder.

Of course, while I was busy panicking, a fourth - somewhat more probable option - totally escaped me: (4) Incompetence.
Waaaaay more likely is that during the previous inspection, I had managed to transfer the queen into the supers. The result would be that she would lay new brood above the queen excluder (which is what I found) and there would still be brood below the queen as per usual... Grrrrr.
(What's more, they may have swarmed during the week as well, although when I looked in the hive there were still *masses* of bees.)
Visit http://website.lineone.net/~dave.cushman/excludertypes.html for an excellent description of queen excluders

16 June 2008


OK, see if you can solve this one.

On Sunday, I looked through the hive with the usual objectives - enough room, queen present, stores - and with a view to taking off some honey. The hive boxes are arranged as follows (from the bottom up): brood, brood, QE, super, super, super, super.

Apart from the fact the the hive is choc-a-bloc with bees and honey, I found capped brood in *all* the supers - *and* in both of the brood boxes. What are the possible reasons for this? I figure they could be:

Two queens, one above the QE and one below

One queen, small enough to wriggle through the QE

Laying workers going bonkers because there is no queen

Plus one hideous final possibility hit me, after I had closed up the hive and gone home with puzzled expression ... I leave this up to you, gentle reader, to figure out.

10 June 2008

Last flight of the honeybee?

Einstein is alleged to have said that if the honeybee becomes extinct, then so will mankind.

In the UK, there are some 270,000 hives managed by 44,000 beekeepers (an average of about six hives each), 90 per cent of whom are amateurs. Defra thinks beekeeping contributes about £165 million a year through pollination services (£3,750 per beekeeper). Defra says 5,000 tonnes of British honey are sold yearly, worth £12 million (I make that £2,40 per kilo, or around £1.10 per lb).

In the US, around 80 per cent of the world's almonds come from the orchards of Central Valley, California - pollinated by bees. Trucks loaded with 500 hives tour the region, and the US$1.9 billion industry is almost entirely dependent on bees.

From the weekend magazine of The Guardian newspaper, 31 May 2008: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/may/31/animalwelfare.environment

07 June 2008

She's in there somewhere, the minx

Complete hive inspection with the aim of finding and marking the queen, plus checking for swarm cells.

The place is groaning with sealed brood and seething with bees. I found a few small queen cell cups, but did not have time to check every frame. Although there is plenty of room in both brood and supers, I have a bad feeling about swarming.

With the hive in bits all around me, I lifted each brood frame out in turn... could I find the queen? Could I buggery. She's in there somewhere, the minx.

04 June 2008

Cradle of civilization

In many ways, Turkey is the cradle of civilization. The more I look at the Turkish beekeeping blogs, the more I realise that these guys really know about bees!

Traditional Wood Hives, Turkey

HB has left a new comment on your post "Beekeeping in a barrel": "This is a Traditinal Wood Hive. There is a lot of kind of Traditional Wood Hive in http://aricilikmuzesi.blogspot.com/"

28 May 2008

Rash boast

Have ordered a stack of hive bits from Thornes. Very good service (from Gill Smith) on the telephone, patiently explaining what fits where, why and how. One day I'll get the hang of it.

Now there's a rash boast.


25 May 2008

Thrivin' hive

Quick visit today to check that the queen is Down Below, by looking for new brood.

The good news is that Yes, there are definitely new larvae below the queen excluder, in the frames of the super that I am using as a half-brood.

Unfortunately, this super now being used in the brood area is the one I moved down at the previous visit. Put another way, there may be larvae in the brood area because I put them there. For all I know, the queen is still upstairs.

In the true spirit of Incompetence, the logic only dawned on me at the instant I had finished closing up the hive.

On the other hand, the bees are filling up the supers with honey - I had to add another layer to their cake, and now have a total of four supers.

12 May 2008

Just when you thought Incompetence was dwindling

Super-fast check of the hive ... took each super off in turn and looked for capped brood... and sure enough, there are emerging bees in the super immediately above the queen excluder. In other words, the queen must be above (rather than below) the QE.

As usual, I could not find the queen, despite plenty of looking (and four stings). On the basis that the queen is where the brood cells are, I moved the super with the brood below the QE.

(Being a WBC hive, I have been advised that a single brood box is probably not big enough, and it is better to have both a brood box and a super below the QE. This arrangement is known as a "brood and a half," a phrase I trot out to encourage the belief that I know what I am doing.)

In conclusion, I noticed that here were *lots* of bees, so added another super to the top. The hive now has a brood & super below the QE, plus three supers on top.

Now I come to write this up, I realise that there appear to be lots of bees because they are all in the supers and not in the brood box.

Just when you thought Incompetence was dwindling, it rears its confused head!

04 May 2008

What the beekeeper did

Well, Thank You Phil!

While I was on holiday, Phil captured the (enormous) swarm and popped them into the hive! Great work. I must go away more often.

I visited this evening, and found the bees in fine form. Curiously, the girls have set up home all crammed down one side of the hive (see pic), leaving the central frames and opposite frames untouched.

Looking through the brood frames, I could see no larvae or capped cells. It could be that the queen is above the excluder, or that she has not had enough time to lay. Will revisit.

26 April 2008

Billions of blue blistering barnacles

In 2007, the bees swarmed and then cast (secondary swarm). In a superb bout of incompetence, I was either at work or away.

In 2008, with no bees to my name (they all died over the winter), the danger had somewhat passed. In a nutshell, I needed bees, and capturing a swarm would be just perfect.

In May, as we drove off for a short holiday on a hot, humid day, I remarked with the casual swagger of the experienced 'keeper, "This is just the kind of weather for bees to swarm." Sure enough, not two minutes later Phil telephoned to say that he had just been called about a swarm, and would I like to come to collect it?

"Billions of blue blistering barnacles," I said, being a famously restrained type of person.

http://mellifera.blogspot.com/search/label/swarm and http://mellifera.blogspot.com/2008/01/bee-disaster-many-dead.html

12 March 2008

Blog of Anatolian Beekeepers Society

  • We are a group of Turkish Beekeepers. Blog of Anatolian Beekeepers Society provides knowledge and discussion atmosphere about beekeeping for members and our guests. We also try to protect our native bee races diversity. Turk’s land (Anatolia) has Apis mellifera anatolica, Apis mellifera caucasica, Apis mellifera carnica, Apis mellifera meda, Apis mellifera syriaca. If you are not from Turkey and interesting about our beekeeping techniques and our honey bee races. Don’t hesitate to connect with us. Our Language is Turkish. But we can communicate with you English.
Further down the blog there are some great photos of Turkey - a beautiful country

"Ouch" in Turkish is "Auaa!"

Ali Türk wrote, in response to the "What's 'Ouch!' in Turkish?" posting:
  • "Es freut mich sehr das dir meine seiten gefallen habenwir haben dauernd neue videosund wissenswertes über imkerei. Oush bedeutet türkisch Auaa!"
For those of you watching in black and white, it reads 'I am very pleased that you liked my site. We constantly have new videos and knowledge on beekeeping. "Ouch" in Turkish is "Auaa!" ' See http://www.ben-gittim.blogspot.com/ for more details...

PS TUNCAY ERDEM wrote "I was there when that video was recording. That guy is not beekeeper. He is a friend of mine. But it was realy funny fortunately any think happened .. "

Are they still friends, I wonder?

10 March 2008

What's "Ouch!" in Turkish?

The images of beekeeping and bees on http://ben-gittim.blogspot.com/ are really outstanding. Unfortunately, my Turkish is even more limited than my beekeeping skill. The photo here needs no explanation, and there's a fine video on ben-gittim.blogspot.com of the deed being done!

06 March 2008

Time to learn about death

Take a look at http://www.dukecityfix.com/profile/NMBeek and specifically his post Learning from Death Fascinating blog, and full of useful info. I found it through another blog, http://mistressbeek.wordpress.com/

PS NMbeek's a fine-looking feller. Nice hat.

03 March 2008

Of Mice and Men

Cleared the hive out, and here's the damage from a mouse (it was in the hive when I opened up!).

25 February 2008

Calloo! Callay!

On my way back from pike fishing I checked the hive entrance. Curiously, there were bees leaving and arriving. The bees in near-by hives are a very different colour and marking, and it might be possible that my girls survived after all. Or the bees in my hive are robbers. The weather is warm-ish at present, so I shall leave them for a week, and hope to complete a full hive inspection this week-end.

18 February 2008

Bee links

How about this for a set of links? Visit http://beeclubpellas.blogspot.com/ and look down the left-hand side.

Plus, there is obviously some clever stuff going on with hive design, take a look at the pictures in the main blog.

From my dodgy understanding of the Greek alphabet, the first word would translate as something like 'bee diary' ('melissokomikos'). Great minds think alike.



08 January 2008

Bee disaster - many dead

Taking advantage of a warm afternoon, I opened the hive and... sure enough, the bees are dead.

They had taken all the syrup, so the bees were definitely in good health at the end of the year. My suspicion is still damp. Next year, I'll use a crown board with two holes. As soon as I can, I'll be taking it apart, cleaning it (bicarbonate of soda, apparently) and starting all over again.

How sad.