07 September 2010

Waxy Beelegs Honey

Redfish commented, about the 100lbs honey crop from two hives, "sounds great, do you sell your honey?"

No, I do not sell my honey. My incompetent beekeeping is dwarfed by my incompetent extraction and bottling, resulting in honey laced with wax and bees' legs. It may be crunchy, but boy it tastes good. 

Thank you for the comment, Redfish.

Image from http://www.fishdeco.com/.

06 September 2010

Global warming causes bees

This article "UK study finds city bees healthier than country bees" http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/green/detail?entry_id=70548 is made immeasurably more interesting by a collection of beautifully idiotic comments, such as:

"It's not only their diet but there is a much more diverse culture in city life. It makes you a more rounded bee and your tolerance level to change is much higher. I can imagine a lot of bees would love city life"
"And then there is global warming. Cities are warmer due to the urban heat island effect. One can only conclude that global warming causes bees."

25 August 2010

Varroa and hubris

Treated both hives for varroa using Apiguard. The first trays went in two weeks ago, and I felt all smug to have started the treatment while the weather remained warm. Of course, the temperature promply sunk (it's around 16C and pouring with rain as I write).

Pic from http://www.vita-europe.com/

18 August 2010

Bees trap Deputy inside car


16 August 2010


From two hives, a total of 47kg - slightly more than 100lbs in old money.

06 July 2010


A fellow beekeeper, immeasurably more competent than I, accidentally killed his queen. The bees subsequently brought on a few queen cells to create a replacement. When he inspected the hive, he tore down all but one new queen cell... which he then broke as he reassembled the hive.

There but for the guilt of schadenfreude....

30 June 2010


Max, the apiary warden, rang to say that there was a clump of bees dangling on the outside of the hive... The cast I had tried to unite with the colony seems to have decided not to join the fun.

Max has kindly offered to chuck 'em back in.

Swarm capture

This very small swarm turned out to be a cast, with no queen. Rather than bring them on as a small nuc, I tried to unite the new bees (using the newspaper process) with an existing colony. As I left the apiary, there was an *almighty* fight going on in front of the hive....

22 June 2010


mellifera=honey-bearing, pter=winged. You Heard It Here First.

Loss of journalist could be a boost to UK economy

In my highly scientific double-blind* numeric bumblebee survey, my garden is absolutely infested with the hairy buzzers, and I don't believe a word of this PANIC NOW journalism.

*both eyes closed - what do you expect, competence?


20 June 2010

A Practical Manual of Beekeeping

My best bee-reading to-date is A Practical Manual of Beekeeping: How to Keep Bees and Develop Your Full Potential as an Apiarist, by David Cramp.

Genuinely outstanding, and in parts very funny, too. Hugely recommended.

18 June 2010

Budget Cuts Affect Beekeeping Shock

The wordy "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" has become the economical "Confusing effort with results."

16 June 2010

Daily Telegraph

Middle class fad for bee keeping sees doubling in number of hives


"The British British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) said there are now more than 80,000 hives registered in Britain, compared to 40,000 in 2007.

"The organisation said there has been an increase in the number of honey bees in Britain over the last two years from 23 billion to 48 billion."

14 June 2010

Heater bees

Edited extract from http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p007vrx7

Seen in the visible spectrum, all bees may look the same. In the infra-red spectrum, it is clear that some bees are warmer than others. Some glow bright orange like hot coals, radiating heat to their surroundings. Others are dark and cool.

Heat is concentrated in one central area of the hive, the brood nest, where young bee pupae are growing. A bee that may appear relatively still, when looked at in infra-red is glowing bright orange, revealing its role as a specialist heater bee.

The bee warms itself up by vibrating its flight muscles - vibrations that allow it to warm up to 44 degrees centigrade, previously thought to be high enough to kill it. Others that seem to be grabbing a quiet snooze are actually tight little balls of fire that are acting to keep the brood warm.

More than two thirds of the hive's honey goes on the central heating of the colony. A rarely seen moment is caught on camera when an exhausted heater bee is topped up by a refuelling bee just returned from foraging.

By controlling the temperature, heater bees control the destiny of the young. Incubated at 34 degress, the newly born bees are likely to become humble housekeepers, but kept just one and a half degrees warmer, they may instead turn into intelligent and high-ranking foragers, living up to 10 times longer.

11 June 2010

Roots & Shoots

If you want to take people to see beehives, here's a wonderful organisation in South London: http://www.rootsandshoots.org.uk/wildlife-garden/school-visits.php

08 June 2010

Article from The Telegraph: Calcutta

New Delhi, May 26: Concerns that cellphones pose a threat to honeybees, articulated by Shah Rukh Khan's character in My Name Is Khan, have now been bolstered by Panjab University zoologist Neelima Kumar's experiments. Read

Page url: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100527/jsp/frontpage/story_12492728.jsp

© The Telegraph.

PS I promise I did not make this up!

04 June 2010

Belfast Telegraph - bumbling picture editor...


29 May 2010

Going Up!

The existing colony has finally started to increase in numbers, and is drawing out fresh new brood comb. The plan had been (and still is) to replace the current brood box with an all-new deep box.

Replacing the current brood box with the deeper version adds about four inches (about 0.1016m, which shows you how useless SI units are for the real world) to the stack height. This being a WBC hive, to allow for the increase, I need one more lift.

Guess who forgot to bring the extra lift? See blog title for a clue.

Ground floor: perfumery
stationery and leather goods
wigs and haberdashery
kitchenware and food. Going up!

First floor: telephones
gents ready-made suits
shirts, socks, ties, hats
underwear and shoes. Going up!

Second floor: carpets
travel goods and bedding
material, soft furnishings,
restaurant and teas. Going down!

When to add supers...

The new swarm colony is going great guns. Clearly there are no new bees yet, so in theory the numbers are declining, but it doesn't look that way!

I put the swarm into a hive with a deep brood box and two supers. Naturally, after the event I discovered that you should not add supers until the brood box is fully drawn and filled with brood, honey and pollen. This ensures that the bees actually keep the stores below the excluder, where they will need them for winter.


See blog title for further information.

28 May 2010

Bill Turnbull: the bad beekeeper - Times Online

And I understand he has written a book, "The Bad Beekeepers' Club."
'Bad' is a strong word; how about 'naughty' or - let's say it - 'incompetent'?

22 May 2010

Jus' checkin'

Looked in on the new swarm today. The good news is that they have settled into their new home, rather than simply buggered off.

These new bees are *very* busy, and *very* aggressive. The slightest shake or knock, and a great swirl of bees pours up at me! Right now, they are building up the comb in the brood box, and already storing honey and pollen in half-built cells.

The first brood will be due to emerge in 24 days. I will check again on or around 12 June, which allows a few extra days for the comb to be completed.

By the look of them, these are Carnolian rather than black bees.

20 May 2010


Phil kindly gave me a *huge* swarm he captured last night. At a rough guess, at least 1kg, which means around 10,000 bees.

The swarm is now in a WBC hive with deep brood box, and one super (drawn) above the queen excluder. I fed them with one litre of 1:1 syrup.

19 May 2010

Marie Celeste

Page 184, Guide to Bees and Honey, 1997, by Ted Hooper...

"Often, this [robbing] will go on until the robbed colony is devoid of all stores, when they will starve or possibly all go home to the robbers' hive. I always think that this must be the way in which 'Marie Celeste' hives are produced - a hive in which a hive is completely empty of bees, stores and brood, but in which every cell is cleaned up and in perfect condition."

You heard it here last, naturally.

14 May 2010

Q&A - bees in the birdbath

I was asked:

"[We] have a birdbath, large water-filled patio tubs and small saucer of water on our patio. Last year, and now this, we have found lots of bees trying to drink from these places, but have found a significant number drowning. We try to keep the water levels high, and have tried floating things in the water to help them get out if they fall in, but are concerned about the numbers drowning. We have lots of bees drinking on warm days and it can be a bit hard to get into the garden – and we don’t want to disturb them.

What can we do to help more bees survive?"

I answered:

"The best thing to stop bees drowning is to provide what I might best describe as a shallow ramp down into the water, like a very gentle beach. The bees will then walk forwards and drink from the damp edge, without drowning. Floaty things generally don't work.

If they are honey bees in your garden, they should not really bother you, but if there is a large colony (wild or kept) near-by, I can understand how it might be a bit of a pain. To stop the bees arriving, I suggest that from time to time you leave the bird bath dry for a while; the bees will soon (give it three days) learn to go elsewhere. You can then refill the birdbath, and repeat the trick if the bees rediscover it."

Any good?

Best bad bee pun (-ish)

Readers' hives


11 May 2010

Why are bees stripey?

I was asked this by some schoolchildren. Here's my best shot.

The gene that expresses stripeyness in tigers is the same gene that expresses spottiness in leopards. All big cats carry very similar gene pools, and the individual genes are expressed differently in each species. (In the case of stripeyness in the big cats, it is governed by the genes controlling the size of the animal.)

If the same applies to hymenoptera, then hornets, wasps, bees, hoverflies etc will all (?) carry the stripeyness gene, expressed differently in each species. For example, apis and bombis express very different degrees of stripeyness.

Honeybees are mildly stripey because there is some mild survival value to carrying and mildly expressing the gene. Hornets are very stripey because there is big survival value to strongly expressing the gene. That's why bees are stripey - a bit obvious, really.

Is that right?

How and why did the gene arise, and what did it originally code?

05 May 2010

Los zánganos en la colmena

Norman Chapman (one of our Wimbledon beekeepers) has, with his daughter Valerie Rhenius and granddaughter Nina Asquith-Rhenius, published an elegant little book: Inside a Beehive.

Thirty-six pages are adorned with excellent photographs show every aspect of a hive. The text is in English, French and Spanish.


ISBN 978-1-907092-04-6.

PS The Spanish for "drones" is "los zánganos."

23 April 2010

keeping bees

"keeping bees" by Paul Peacock is a longish (120pp+) attempt at a practical guide...

Not particularly well-organised or written, "keeping bees" is easily eclipsed by "Hive Management" by Richard E Bonney.

Next on my reading list is "Guide to Bees and Honey" by Ted Hooper.

14 April 2010


Every time I visit www.peak-hives.co.uk, I covet their beautiful, beautiful hives.

Remind me, which sin is that?

06 April 2010

"Jericho" not the best inspection method

Finally, finally managed to find time to inspect the hives fully rather than the previous Jericho efforts.

As I thought, one hive failed to make it through the winter - except, of course, it was not the hive I was expecting...

Judging from the remains of the cluster, the colony that died was not large enough to keep warm. There were stores near-by, the comb etc looked healthy. The surviving colony already has many, many more bees.

23 March 2010

Bailey Comb Change

The current thinking is a Bailey Comb Change.

See http://www.wimbledonbeekeepers.co.uk/Bailey%20Comb%20Change.pdf

Bailey Comb Change

Nipped up to the apiary to take a look at the hives, as today was warm-ish.

Took the anti-woodpecker chicken wire off the hives, and took a peek in each. The hive nearest the gate looks pretty much dead. A mouse had somehow managed to lever the mouseguards open (you can see the nibble marks!) and ended up trapped above the crown board. The hive furthest from the gate looks busy, but I think it's robbery, not activity, as I could see no bees in the hive itself.

Prognosis: not good. One definitely dead, the other probably dead.

16 March 2010


Trying to find time to inspect the hives is proving tricky. The weather is so cold and wet that I dare not open the hives, and on the odd warmish day I have not had the time to take a look.

Instead, today was a Jericho inspection. Of the two hives, one seems to be busy in a suspicious kind of way, with lots of bees buzzing around, but not at the entrance (is it being robbed?), and the other seems fine, with a few bees milling around at the entrance.

The anti-woodpecker mesh seems to have done its job this year, at least.