22 December 2011

13 December 2011

Herbie Quirk and Peter Gadge

The Isle of Man Beekeepers' Federation (see article at http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/district-news/honey_monsters_1_4006283) glories in the Herbie Quirk Memorial Trophy.

The Wimbledon Beekeeper's Association has the Peter Gadge Memorial Cup. None of us can remember what it is for. 

12 December 2011

Is it me?

This site, http://www.surreybeekeeper.co.uk/, looks really interesting, but somehow isn't. 

Have I been a curmudgeon all my life? Not yet. 

17 November 2011

Cheeky chappie

Should this be on Photoshop Disasters?
Fearless hack Daisy Wallage (daisy.wallage@archant.co.uk) writes on EDP 24, the Region's Daily Morning Newspaper of the Year (eh?). She reports television personality (eh?) and beekeeper Bill Turnbull as saying “I don’t really do it for the honey – I do it more to commune with the bees and get closer to nature." 

Bill has written a book, The Bad Beekeepers' Club, published in the US as Confessions of a Bad Beekeeper.  

Reviews anyone? 


16 November 2011

Old habits die hard

Home for retired beekeepers?
My least favourite task, extracting, is complete. The settling tank contains about 50lbs of honey. About twice as much again decorates the interior of the shed plus implements, my clothing and me. I tried using a paint stripper heat gun to pop the cappings. Fun, but ineffective, I found, and I resorted to knife-wielding violence. Old habits die hard. 

09 November 2011

Is it April Fools' Day?

Here is what Philips says: "The design of the beehive is unconventional, appealing, and respects the natural behavior of the bees. It consists of two parts: entry passage and flower pot outside, and glass vessel containing an array of honeycomb frames, inside. The glass shell filters light to let through the orange wavelength which bees use for sight. The frames are provided with a honeycomb texture for bees to build their wax cells on. Smoke can be released into the hive to calm the bees before it is opened, in keeping with established practice."
philips, bee keeping equipment, bee keeper, urban beehive, urban bees, bee keeping, beehive, how to keep a beehive, bee problems, philips
This urinal-shaped hive is intended to be hung on a wall or pane of glass, with the white bit on the outside and the orange blob on the inside. Seems like an invitation to disaster. A few tugs of the cord from my enthusiastic children would test the hive well beyond destruction, emptying bees into my luxurious boudoir, to the dismay of all. And I wouldn’t wear that dress when beekeeping. 


PS. What is an 'orange wavelength,' exactly? 

30 October 2011

Bad glove day

Gardening gloves are poor substitutes for the real thing (Marigolds). Bees get stuck in the elasticated wrist thingies, and can wiggle underneath inside the glove, as my fat fingers now testify.

Note to self: at twenty yards away, the shed is not too far for a quick trip to pick up the correct equipment...

04 October 2011

Crowded House

Fascinating presentation from the regional bee inspector, Alan Byham. He mentioned that around 15 colonies at one location was a sensible maximum (we have double that), and that London generally is over-crowded with bees.


29 September 2011

Clearing supers

In the past, prior to removing supers, I have used either Canadian or Porter bee escapes, with varying lack of success.

This year, in haste I simply shook and brushed as many bees off as possible, and sealed the remainder into the super. Not great.

Back home, I undid the supers to release the trapped bees... And lo and behold, they all, without exception, flew off (back to the hive?) leaving me with bee-free combs.


28 September 2011

Winter of our content

Both hives now tucked up for the winter. Apiguard is on, and each hive has a deep brood box with a full super above it (and one hive has another partially full super above that). All that remains is finishing the Apiguard treatment, and wrapping with chicken wire against woodpeckers.

26 September 2011

HAPPY coincidence?

Google picked up this bizarre juxtaposition of theatre listings, from http://www.flintshirechronicle.co.uk/entertainment-flintshire/2011/09/26/theatres-november-18-onwards-59067-29489103/
LIMELIGHT Productions present this moving play by Charlotte Jones. Felix Humble, bumbling Cambridge astrophysicist and cricket enthusiast, returns to the family home following the sudden death of his father. This touching comedy looks at broken vows, failed hopes and the joys of beekeeping. Call 01244 341296 or visit www.chestertheatre.co.uk.
JUST ONE DAY (The Lowry, Salford Quays, September 29-October 1)
HAPPY Collective Theatre present a play about sexual violence and the F-word. When Girl 29 is drug-raped, the friendship between Shona, Sheldon and Janet is stretched. This authentic and beautifully told account of female solidarity depicts women who refuse to be defined by victimhood and whose intelligence and wit are not decoration or bravado, but won through courage and love. Call 0843 208 6000 or visit www.thelowry.com.
Why would a group called 'HAPPY Collective Theatre' choose such a play? I shall stick with beekeeping. 

24 September 2011

Three full supers

Finally, finally, late in the season (see pic) and with the usual comedy of errors, I have taken the honey off the hives. Notes to self are:

- Paintbrush handles, toothbrushes and pruning saws make poor substitutes for a forgotten hive tool
- Bees can sting through just about anything if they are angry enough
- Driving home is a bad time to learn that there are bees in the car

Despite or because of my lack of intervention, yield this year is good: three full WBC supers from each hive.

Over the coming winter I am running one hive 'warm way,' the other 'cold way,' both with open mesh floors. In terms of honey yield, there is no difference.

18 September 2011

Killer bees

After avoiding it for aaaaages, I managed to get stung putting an empty super back in the shed.

When asked why he accepted the role in the truly awful "The Swarm," Michael Caine replied "Coz the wife wanted a new swimming pool." What was Katherine Ross' excuse? 

Honey Laundering

The Food Programme, on BBC Radio Four at 12:30 UK time:

The highest court in the EU has just issued a ruling concerning GM pollen and honey, which will have far-reaching implications both for the honey trade and beyond. As global demand grows year on year, could the EU be facing a honey shortage?

17 September 2011

Back ache

I can assure you it is a very poor idea to lift three full supers at one time. 

02 September 2011

You cannot be serious!

"Bees are the most fascinating creatures on the planet. They collect tree resins and gums to make propolis, which is the greatest antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal system in the world. They use it to plug every crack in the hive, but Florence Nightingale used it in the Crimea for its healing properties. I’ve been asked by a major airline to look into making a propolis mist to spray into the cabins. The beehive — a totally sterile environment — is nature’s pharmacy."

On what evidence is propolis the greatest antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal system on earth? Is the beehive is a totally sterile environment? (No nosema, acarine, IPV, AFB or EFB should just about do it. And no bees, either.)

The author runs a bee medical products web site, medibee.

01 September 2011

Attention Deficit Disorder

One pupil was a regular visitor to the school's behavioural support house because of his violent outbursts of kicking, punching and throwing furniture around. While he struggled with academic work, he discovered that he excelled at the the practical side of beekeeping: making the wooden frames that go into the hive, and dismantling the hive to access the honey. When the Guardian's bees expert, Alison Benjamin, visited the school, the pupil told her: "The bees made me peaceful and calm."


31 August 2011

I Have Got To Get Me One Of These

Bee Venom Mask
larger image

Bee Venom Mask

Starting at:

Nature's Botox A natural alternative to botox and the first product of its kind. It's sure to create a buzz within your beauty routine. This unique product has been specially created using natural and organic ingredients, combined to work in synergy for an instant anti-ageing effect

Containing Manuka Honey, renowned for its soothing and healing properties, it also contains the magic Bee Venom ingredient that works to control the facial muscles for immediate lifting, tightening and firming, whilst getting to work on frown lines and wrinkles

Bee Venom Mask also contains ingredients of softening and calming Shea Butter, Rose and Lavender essential oils - leaving you looking your youthful best. Apply Heaven Bee Venom mask daily and leave on the skin for 20 minutes before washing off and your skin will look and feel instantly younger and smoother

Apply morning/evening on top of moisturiser and leave on.

Patch test recommended.

I promise you, I am not making this up! It really is for sale...

28 August 2011

Other plans

The master plan to take the supers off and stick in the Apiguard have gone to pot. The bees are still doing their stuff, and the hives are full to overflowing.

Is there any particular reason to rush?

20 August 2011

Deja vu

Nice pic. Haven't I seen this feller before, though? Come to think of it, do I detect some recycling going on here at The Grauniad? http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/green-living-blog/2011/aug/02/urban-bees

Premier cru

The Grauniad, 7 August 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/07/urban-beekeeping
Nice pic. Mind you, I would be seriously hacked off carrying full supers down that ladder.

19 August 2011

See you in court


London offices offered bee hives to 'boost work morale'

Staff with bee hives on the terrace of Olswang Law firm Olswang is hosting two bee hives
Businesses in central London are being offered free bee hives to see if they will enhance office morale.
InMidtown, a group representing firms in Holborn, Bloomsbury and St Giles, said it has offered hives to 560 businesses in a pilot scheme.
The scheme hopes hosting apiaries will aid team building in firms and add to the urban food production.
Five businesses who have signed up are hosting 40,000 bees in eight hives on their roofs and terraces.
Employees of the host businesses will be trained to assist professional beekeepers to care for the hives and harvest honey.
Dr Susan Parham, head of urbanism at the University of Hertfordshire, will monitor the impact of hosting hives in a working environment.
Bee-friendly flowers Law firm Olswang has signed up to the project and has a bee hive on its roof and another on a terrace in Holborn. It said the bees were a "very docile" variety.
"It just seemed like a great project and staff absolutely love it," said Sam Hudson, corporate responsibility executive at the firm.
Bee hives on the terrace of Olswang Up to 560 firms are being offered free bee hives
Once a week 20 staff members don bee suits to check on the hives with a professional, and the firm hopes to harvest its first batch of honey this autumn.
"We are going to sell it off to our staff and raise money for our charity partner Coram. Hopefully give some to our clients as well," Ms Hudson said.
Tass Mavrogordato, chief executive of InMidtown, said the pilot scheme aimed to tap into the business benefits of hosting apiaries.
She said: "To ensure there is enough food from the off we've been filling five bike-lock planters with bee-friendly flowers since last autumn, with a further 20 planters installed along with the new hives."

08 July 2011

Beekeeping would be just dandy without the bees

At the start of this year, I thought it wise [uh-oh] to swap from a brood-and-a-half to a single deep brood box. To do so, I added the deep brood on top of the existing brood boxes, the idea being that the bees would move up.

Let me give you the picture: starting from the bottom, this hive has a brood box, super-as-brood box, and a new deep brood box, then the queen excluder, and four supers above for stores. The thing is taller than I am.

Later in the season [now, in fact] I planned to take the old lower brood boxes away, and the girls would be on nice new frames in the deep brood box.

The sisterhood, of course, had other plans [beekeeping would be just dandy without the bees].

The brood was, and has been all season, across almost all the frames in all three boxes. The colony is positively heaving with bees. They show no sign of abandoning their comfy old accommo, and have simply expanded into the penthouse flat above, as well.

One of the main reasons I tried to shift the bees onto new frames by stealth was the desire to avoid the brute force of a Bailey comb change (http://www.wimbledonbeekeepers.co.uk/Bailey%20Comb%20Change.pdf) or shook swarm (http://www.northdevonbees.org/member_pages/advice_sub2.htm).

Even though this colony is a towering [literally] monument to incompetence, the good news is that the four supers are almost full and capped.

23 June 2011

Fear glitters in my eyes

From our newsletter: "So now for the bad news, it has been reported that EFB (European Foul Brood) has been found in a colony just outside our radius of concern. We don’t have an exact location but the Bee Inspectors are on the case."

Go on, 'ave a fag (part deux)


The nicotinoids are a new class of insecticides with a new mode of action. They have been previously referred to as nitro-quanidines, neonicotinyls, neonicotinoids, chloronicotines, and more recently as the chloronicotinyls. Just as the synthetic pyrethroids are similar to and modeled after the natural pyrethrins, so too, are the nicotinoids similar to and modeled after the natural nicotine. Imidacloprid was introduced in Europe and Japan in 1990 and first registered in the U.S. in 1992. It is currently marketed as several proprietary products worldwide, e.g., Admire(r), Confidor(r),Gaucho(r), Merit(r), Premier(r), Premise(r) and Provado(r). Very possibly it is used in the greatest volume globally of all insecticides.

Imidacloprid is a systemic insecticide, having good root-systemic characteristics and notable contact and stomach action. It is used as a soil, seed or foliar treatment in cotton, rice cereals, peanuts, potatoes, vegetables, pome fruits, pecans and turf, for the control of sucking insects, soil insects, whiteflies, termites, turf insects and the Colorado potato beetle, with long residual control. Imidacloprid has no effect on mites or nematodes.

Other nicotinoids include acetamiprid (Mospilan(r)), thiamethoxam (Actara(r), Platinum(r)), and nitenpyram (Bestguard(r)). All are pursuing U.S. registration.

Mode of action--The nicotinoids act on the central nervous system of insects, causing irreversible blockage of postsynaptic nicotinergic acetylcholine receptors (See also Nicotine under the Botanicals).

From http://www-infocris.iaea.org/ididas/w3.exe$SSPage?Show=12&ID=141 

16 June 2011


Ever since the weathermen have been cheeping about a drought, it has been raining. Chucked it down. Hissed down. Come down in stair-rods. Cats and Dogs.

Fellow beekeepers report seeing their honey stores dwindling already. I shall leave the supers on until, I think, the Autum Term starts.

Pic from http://eurodogtraining.blogspot.com/2010/11/its-raining-cats-and-dogs.html

12 June 2011

New learnings

Next on the list of top tips is uncapping frames - with our trusty friend the electric paint stripper (see 21 April 2011). 

Legend has it that a swift blast from a paint stripper is enough to pop the cappings off prior to centrifugal extraction. No more faffing about with a hot knife, an uncapping fork or endless cursing. Zap 'em, instead.

Wearing an apron is wise.

11 June 2011

New learnings

Sneaking a couple of cigarettes into the smoker is the latest Top Tip. Apparently the nicotine stupefies the bees super-fast.

These New Learnings - research-based, apparently - immediately raise questions. Who on earth thought of trying nicotine as a smoke additive, and which tobacco brand works best?

10 June 2011

How long is a piece of string?

How long can you leave full supers on a hive?

Both hives are heaving with bees - shedloads, to use the technical term - and very defensive. Clearing the supers with Porter or Canadian bee escapes will be a slow process, and even then there will probably be quite a few left behind.

Instead, can I leave the supers on the hives until the number of bee starts to decline? Then, clearing them could be a doddle. How long can I leave them? Until the end of August? Later?

How long is a piece of string?

[Actually, the answer is the cube root of a handful.]

09 June 2011


The bees are going gangbusters - and there are *lots* of them, even now. Shedloads, in fact.

One shedload = heaps and heaps
Heaps = buckets and buckets
Bucket = armfuls
Armful = dozens of handfuls
Handful = about this much, squire

The linear equivalent of a handful is a piece of string, or a fisherman's pike.

26 May 2011

Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping, by Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer, available on Amazon. Anyone read it? The review on Amazon is worryingly worthy


24 May 2011

Deep and tall

Much of my beekeeping is not exactly well-planned. I mean, I keep notes for each hive and have a definite objective each time I visit, but that's no substitute for thinking, unfortunately.

The brood box on one hive could do with changing. Scrotty old foundation, tons of propolis - you get the picture. Reading up on performing a Bailey comb change put me off completely. Instead, I went for the the following: stick a new (deep) brood box on top of the current brood. The idea is that the bees all migrate upwards, and at the end of the season or next spring, I can remove the tatty old brood.

Great. Except that with the new deep brood on top, I how have a hive almost taller than me....

How, exactly, will I manage to lift off full supers?

05 May 2011

Going anywhere nice?

Once again, the bees have outwitted me... by swarming, and choosing to do so while I was on holiday. Did they go anywhere nice?

28 April 2011

The Naked Beekeeper

Phil Chandler, sporting a natty hat, is The Barefoot Beekeeper. Nothing particularly new in his views, as far as I can tell (not very far, probably), but clearly a man of passion.

The Barefoot Beekeeper has a certain ring to it. "The Naked Beekeeper" is even more enticing (if a little worrying, thinking about vulnerable protuberances). And 'naked beekeeper' gets some unpleasant hits on Google...


27 April 2011

Polystyrene BS National hives and Germ-Free Adolescents

Take a look at http://www.wealdplacefarmbees.co.uk/hives.php for a new way to house your bees in polystyrene hives.

On a related note, Poly Styrene, lead singer of X-Ray Spex, died yesterday.

26 April 2011

Pssst! Wanna buy a beehive?

I never quite know how to take stories like this: "Beekeeping enthusiasts stung by thieves as hives in Kent are stolen to order" http://www.thisiskent.co.uk/news/Beekeepers-stung-thieves/article-3469552-detail/article.html , Thursday, April 21

Who is stealing the hives? How do they sell them? How utterly bizarre! There must be easier things to steal...

24 April 2011

Taking the pith

Take a look at this excellent blog: http://basicbeekeeping.blogspot.com/

These guys, Sheri and David Burns, share *tons* of interesting stuff - and a few Bible quotes, to boot.

And if you're interested in a plastic pith helmet, complete with veil, here's the link you have been looking for: http://www.honeybeesonline.com/servlet/Detail?no=52

21 April 2011

First degree burns

At the start of each year, I attempt to sterilise frames, boxes and excluders with a blowtorch. A fair number of frames simply catch fire, and many others are charred beyond recognition. The boxes and excluders never look quite the same again.

Not any more.

Step forward my ancient Bosch heat gun paint stripper, complete with nozzle thingy that could have been purpose-designed for blasting into the nooks and crannies of a hive. The 'high' heat setting is perfect; propolis melts and runs away like water, and wax disappears in a puff of delicious smoke.

No burns, no mess. Nice. 

20 April 2011

Spotty dotty disease

As I spring-cleaned one hive, I noticed that the (solid) floor was covered in debris, like very fine sawdust or dark sand. Not sure what's going on here. My second hive has a mesh floor, so I have no comparison.

14 April 2011

Tea Urn?

For some time, I have been trying to figure out how best to combine a settling tank with the bottling process.

Last year, with around 50lbs of honey per hive extracted, I struggled with umpteen 15lb tubs. Using a twin-mesh filter and muslin, it takes aaaaages to bottle. If only I could (a) have one large settling tank that (b) warmed the honey and (c) had a tap for easy pouring.

Tea Urn?

07 April 2011

Breeding sheep resistant to wolves

Neat article here, http://pubs.acs.org/cen/business/89/8913bus1.html, about using integrated pest management and, in effect, trying to breed varroa resistance.

This is from Chemical & Engineering News, C&EN to its friends.

05 April 2011


Catching and killing bees for a health inspection seems wasteful. After crossing fingers, arms and legs that the colony survives the winter, it seems particularly rough to murder even one bee, let alone the thirty or so needed.

Still, the cull was less than expected.

After turning the house up-side down for the beekeeper's Weapon of Choice (empty matchboxes) to catch the bees, it struck me that ziplock bags would be just the thing.

Wrong. Ziplock bags as bee-catching kit ranks right up there with using mothballs to kill varroa.

Catching the first ten is pretty straightforward, and I'm sure that if I had thought it through it would have worked. But that would mean thinking it through, a foreign country peopled with demons. In essence, every time you open the bag to catch a few more... Well, you can guess the rest.

Note to self: don't be fooled by a Good Idea.

04 April 2011

Maiden aunts and hookers

BBKA News, formerly a somewhat worthy, researchy and politicky newswletter printed on plain paper has gone all glossy. It's like seeing a maiden aunt in hooker's gear.

Oddly, she carries it off rather well. Annoyingly, I cannot find an image of the new woman, so here is her older, dowdier self:

I wonder what the bigger, glossier brother title, Beecraft, will make of it all?

02 April 2011


For the first time, the bees are actually taking the fondant.

Each hive has a single packet of Dr Oetker's Regal-Ice Ready to Roll Icing on it. Nicely, the contents are in a plastic foil pack, which can be neatly sliced open to sit on top of the crown board. The bees are chewing through the fondant, making rippled channels as they dig deeper and deeper.

21 March 2011

How many bees make a summer?

Took a look at both hives yesterday... masses of bees flying, bringing in pollen. Good signs, at least, as long as the fair weather persists.