21 December 2019


Bombus Terrestris visiting flowers this morning, with full pollen baskets!

04 December 2019

Diary of a Curmudgeon at Kew Gardens

Visited The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in SW London, and looked around the 'The Hive,' a big structural thingmabob about bees. Yet the info card (pictured) waffles on about 1,000 LED lights. Hmmmm. 

As usual, no-one is prepared to call out the Emperor for wearing no clothes. 

26 November 2019

Tesco pulls honey off shelves amid purity concerns

See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50551385

Apparently (a) Richmond Council (in South West London) acted after a tip-off and (b) tests were conducted using nuclear magnetic resonance techniques.

Much as I like honey, you'd think NMR could be put to better use.

21 November 2019

ASIAN HORNET  Vespa Velutina nigrithorax CONFERENCE

ASIAN HORNET  Vespa Velutina nigrithorax CONFERENCE The NATIONAL BEEKEEPING CENTRE  Stoneleigh Park Warwickshire CV8 2LG 10am-16.00 on Saturday 8th February 2020 This conference is free and for all Asian Hornet Team Leaders or representatives from Area Associations. Initially there will be an opportunity for two representatives from each Association area but if requested more individuals may be able to attend, it is dependent on the maximum numbers in the hall. Regional Bee Inspectors are also invited. The purpose of the conference is to learn more about Asian Hornets and the current research, examine the experience during 2019 and develop a way forward considering  suggestions from those involved in incidents Nigel Semmence, Sandra Gray (NBI) and Belinda Philipson (Defra Policy) will update the conference on the current position and also answer questions during the conference. Steve Martin will be sharing his knowledge about Asian Hornets and Xesus Feas...

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Zinc toxicity

Another fascinating post from HoneyBeeSuite: https://www.honeybeesuite.com/is-zinc-toxic-to-honey-bees/

20 November 2019


Flag of the commomwealth of bees!

19 November 2019

The God Beelusion

I like this reference to bees, handed out to Brownies in a list of graces:

Bees of paradise,
Do the work of Jesus Christ,
Do the work that no man can. 

I presume the casual sexism of the grace refers to drones...

14 November 2019

Power lines may mess with honeybees’ behavior and ability to learn

Here's the report: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/power-lines-may-mess-with-honeybees-learning-behavior

Here's the gritty:

In the new study, bees were subjected for 17 hours  — the amount of time they would spend overnight in a hive — to either 100 µT or 1,000 µT, a typical EMF level within a meter of the transmission line. The bees were then put through several behavioral and learning tests.

In one test, bees were familiarized with a floral smell. The bees were then put through five trials in which they were exposed to the smell for several seconds before experiencing an electric shock. The researchers measured how many trials it took the bees to learn to defensively extend their stingers in response to the smell instead of the stimulus.

“It’s basically Pavlov’s dogs with bees,” Shepherd says. At both EMF levels, exposed honeybees were slower than unexposed bees in learning to associate the smell with the shock. Only a third of the exposed bees learned to do it after the five trials, compared with half of the unexposed bees. Exposed bees also were more likely than unexposed bees to exhibit aggressive behavior, such as biting or attempting to sting other bees.

Hmmm... 17 hours is one helluva long night, and I don't know of any hives within one metre of a power line.

05 November 2019


In Stockholm for a few days, I discovered that the Swedish for 'beekeeping' is 'biodling.' Which is pretty much as cool as it gets.

Pick from https://mightyhive.com/, which has nothing to do with beekeeping.

04 November 2019

The truly bizarre (but very friendly, I think) Cool Hive

Cool Hive https://coolhive.com/ uses lots of bee-related language (pollinate, buzz, workers etc) but features no actual beekeeping. A bit like this site, I guess.

On the other hand, Cool Hive sells trendy kitchenware, https://coolhive.com/coolkitchensupplies/, which I don't.

Ho hum. (See what I did there?)


03 November 2019

How much does a jar of honey cost?

Honey, Honey, Honey, It's a Rich Man's World

In the ABBA museum, Stockholm. I think it was about SEK100

25 October 2019

More than 40% of beekeepers say they had a better honey harvest in 2019

Friday 25th October The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) annual survey of how much honey they have harvested from their bees shows the highest yield in 10 years. The average crop was 40.25 pounds of honey. In 2012 they only produced an average of 8 pounds and the previous highest crop was in 2014.  Important factors  Beekeepers report that the most important factors for producing a good crop are abundant forage throughout the beekeeping season, good colony health and the right weather. And this year the small number of colonies ( 2 %) moved to seasonal forage like heather and those colonies sited near wooded areas or forestry did the best.  Most of the 1,039 beekeepers who responded to the survey only had 1 or 2 colonies but next most popular amount was 5-10 colonies.  Best region The highest average yield was in the South East followed by East region. 60% of BBKA members keep their honeybees in a rural/countryside landscape, 29% in suburban ga...

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Bees abroad

Seems like https://beesabroad.org.uk/ is such a great plan, and then I find that Justin Welby is a patron. On the other hand, Brian Sherriff (https://www.bjsherriff.co.uk/) is also a patron.

24 October 2019

Save the Honeybee

Help British Beekeepers Association raise funds for research into the threats honeybees face  Every year the British Beekeepers Association selects scientific projects from a wide range of subjects that benefit bees and beekeeping.  These might include bee behaviour, bee husbandry, pollination, forage or the environment.  Grants are given to researchers on a rolling basis throughout the year - that way if someone has a particularly brilliant idea they do not have to wait until they can apply they can do it straight away. Current research  We are currently supporting the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology who have started analysing honey samples to monitor how the pollen content of honey varies  & which plants & trees honeybees favour.  We have given funds to Sussex University to create a national database of plant/pollinator interactions which will record which plants support all pollinators including honeybees.  The Univer...

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US winter colony losses near 40%

According to a preliminary report from Bee Informed (https://beeinformed.org/results/2018-2019/), US winter colony losses are around 40%.. Put another way, on average for every five colonies you'll lose two over the winter... Here's the grit:

"Similar to previous years, backyard beekeepers lost more colonies over the winter (39.8%) compared to sideline (36.5%) and commercial (37.5%) beekeepers. Backyard, sideline, and commercial beekeepers are defined as those managing 50 or fewer colonies, 51 to 500 colonies, and 501 or more colonies, respectively."


23 October 2019

Master of the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers

Whoever is the current Master of the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers is patron of the British Beekeepers Association. They are an ancient City of London company governed by a Royal charter granted by King Richard 111 in 1484.  The business of a Wax Chandler was the preparation, making and sale of beeswax and beeswax products. Wax Chandlery included torches, images, wax for seals, medical uses and candles. Before the Reformation, acts of devotion to speed souls through Purgatory required vast quantities of beeswax for candles, tapers and images. Medieval trade relied on wax seals to attest contracts and the like and wax coated writing tablets were the BlackBerries of the time. Today the Master of the Wax Chandlers sponsors lectures at the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) Spring Convention, awards a prize and a dinner to the beekeeper getting the highest marks in their Master of Beekeeping exams and has supported the BBKA when it hosted the 2017 International Meeting of Y...

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What diseases & pests do honeybees suffer from?

There are a number of diseases affecting bees, some more serious than others. They are not infectious to humans but dangerous for the bee. Certain bee diseases are even notifiable to the Government. The most serious are AFB (American Foul Brood) and EFB (European Foul Brood), which affect the larva in the hive. These are normally treated by destroying the colony by burning it. If left alone, the disease can spread throughout out the whole apiary and affect surrounding beekeepers. Spores from AFB can remain dormant for over 50 years in old beekeeping equipment and cause problems decades later. Varroa  Many hives are affected by varroa, a mite that attaches to the body of the honeybee and sucks up bodily fluids weakening the bee and there are conflicting ideas on how to combat them. Some beekeepers believe that bees can develop a natural resistance to the mite and refuse to treat believing that the colonies that survive will naturally acquire resistance. Other beekeepers moni...

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Scientific beekeeping

This is a mind-bogglingly good endeavour: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/Research and articles about beekeeping by Randy Oliver, an author in the American Bee Journal.

I'm going to (a) nick tons of interesting snippets and post them as my own, (b) drum up some donations, and (c) feel guilty about (a) and credit the site properly.

22 October 2019

Jimmy Doherty

Introducing BBKA Patron – Jimmy Doherty   Jimmy Doherty is a natural choice to be the first new Patron of the BBKA in the Twenty-first century. Jimmy has had a keen interest in insects since he was a young boy. With stints working at a wildlife park in his teens and later working as an Entomologist in his Twenties at London’s Natural History Museum, to read for his PhD in Entomology and starting a 140 acre farm, Jimmy has an active interest in food and the outdoors all his life. Bees Jimmy has a great interest in bees and has even travelled to Nepal and spent time with the honey hunters there. He is also President of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Farmer ‘Jimmy’s Farm’ in Suffolk is home to all sorts of native livestock including pigs, cattle, sheep, goats and turkeys. He also encourages food provenance and local food supply chains in his onsite restaurant. Combining his ethos of small scale farming; beekeeping; rearing of native breeds and t...

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21 October 2019

20 October 2019

Unemployed construction worker turns love of bees into thriving brewery business

I don't like mead, but I like this story. https://www.itv.com/news/2019-10-20/unemployed-construction-worker-turns-love-of-bees-into-thriving-brewery-business/

Kit (left) and Matt (right) Newell launched their meadery in Chepstow, South Wales Credit: Matt Newell [and Matt is clearly also a dab hand at selfies]

15 October 2019


In the brief gap between torrential downpours, I added feed to my hives. Though wet, the temp was a pleasant 16C, and the colonies started robbing each other within moments. Silly buggers. Still, it will be (a) dark in 30 mins' time and (c) chucking it down... (there is no (b), obvs).

14 October 2019

Honey bees perform better at a maths task with the right training

Nice little piece here, https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2019-10-13/bees-numerical-cognition-maths-brains/11590430, based on the original research here, https://jeb.biologists.org/content/222/19/jeb205658

To save you the trouble, the original piece is titled "Surpassing the subitizing threshold: appetitive–aversive conditioning improves discrimination of numerosities in honeybees."

You gotta hand it to the authors, they sure know how to grab attention.

Thanks to Scarlett R. Howard, Aurore Avarguès-Weber, Jair E. Garcia, Andrew D. Greentree, Adrian G. Dyer

Pic from https://www.freepik.com/

13 October 2019

11 October 2019

Addition to my long list of things I never knew... 'species' is not a precise term

Dr Mark Spencer (see blog 8.10.19) explained, among a zillion other things, that 'species' is not a precise term.

Previously I understood that 'species' meant 'unable to interbreed.' For example, all dogs are the same species, while dogs and cats are different species. Likewise, in botany, grasses do not reproduce successfully with ferns. That seemed pretty specific, so to speak.

Up to a point, Lord Copper, up to a point. I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

For example, in zoology the edge of a species is something of a grey area: horses mated with donkeys produce mules and whinnys (or is it 'whinnies'?), which are unable to reproduce. Are mules a species or not? The lines are even more blurred during the speciation process itself (which is usually a result of physical isolation leading to genetic independence), as capability to reproduce between the two proto-species gradually declines.

Similarly, Dr Spencer explained that in botany the definition of species is very much a taxonomists' invention, a 'legal fiction' to borrow from m'learned friends, designed to help us understand the world. Reproduction capability alone is not sufficient to define a species; it's simply a way of classifying and sorting the jumbled universe into ways our tidy, tiny minds can grasp. 

This was all news to me - though perhaps not news to you, dear reader.

Anyway. I asked Dr S about strains, variations and species of bees. But he's a botanist, and, like the good scientist that he is, he did not speculate. Or speciate.

Pic stolen from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Linnaeus

09 October 2019

What the beekeepers say - 2019

BBKA's 42nd Spring Convention in 2019 involved around 1,400 people over the three days of the event.  It is held at Harper Adams University in Shropshire each year and we make sure the Convention covers all aspects of beekeeping to keep our visitors happy.  Visitors from all over the UK Susie Hill: Susie Hill has been keeping bees for about 10 years and comes over from Northern Ireland. “I can catch up with people I’ve met through beekeeping. I pick up new ideas and generally network. I’m an ‘organiser’ at work but here I can just come and relax and learn.” Of interest to new and more experienced beekeepers alike Lucy Shier with Claire Hartry: Relatively new beekeeper: Lucy Shier from near Cleobury Mortimor in Shropshire has been beekeeping for about 2 years. “The Spring Convention’s brilliant. It’s well organised, the food is good value for money. It’s fantastic to go to free lectures and...

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28 September 2019

Bee-pollinated plants

Here's a fill-up-the-internet clickbait article, https://www.insider.com/foods-we-will-lose-if-bees-go-extinct

To save you the effort, the foods listed are: avocado, alfalfa, almonds, apples, anise, apricot, blackberries, blueberries, cacao, cantaloupe, cardamom, cashew, cherries, coffee, coriander, cucumber, grapefruit, kiwi, macadamia, mango, peaches, pears, pumpkins, raspberries, strawberries, tea, tomatoes, watermelon.

I'm pretty sure the list is incorrect. Take a look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_crop_plants_pollinated_by_bees

27 September 2019

Five hundred million bees found dead in Brazil

OK, another Pesticides Are Bad story: https://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/500-million-bees-found-dead-in-brazil/

Like the argument over global warming, even though much of the data may be inaccurate or presented in a biased manner, the basic premise could still be correct. At the junction of reason and emotion, choose your route.

Put another way, "I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that." [Dr Ben Goldacre]

24 September 2019

22 September 2019

It's hip to bee...

"Beekeeping has gone from humble to haute," says the article intro. 
ES magazine, 20 September, by Clara Strunck

21 September 2019

16 September 2019

Just came across Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping. Totally. Awesome.


15 September 2019

Yield 2019

This year's weather was generally unkind to my bees - hot one day, cold and and wet the next. However, a warm end-of-summer worked out well, with an estimated 20kg honey yield/hive.

12 September 2019

Male honeybees blind the queen bee during sex by injecting her with toxins

A new study by researchers from the University of California, Riverdale, has revealed that male bees inject toxins during sex to temporarily blind the queen bee...

Image: BARBARA BAER-IMHOFF / UCR from https://www.mirror.co.uk/science/male-honeybees-blind-queen-bee-19942655


10 September 2019

Asian hornet, Vespa velutina

Another UK sighting:


08 September 2019

Bananas for bees

A fascinating post from https://blythewoodbeecompany.com/put-down-that-banana-beekeeper/, describing how the chemicals in bananas match the main alarm pheromone in bees : isoamyl acetate.


07 September 2019

03 September 2019


Promise, large Promise, is the soul of an Advertisement.Samuel Johnson, 1759, in his own magazine called The Idler!

01 September 2019

How much does a jar of honey cost?

For the 227 g pots, £8.50 per lb, or (bizarrely) the 340 g pots
come to slightly more, at £9.03 per lb

31 August 2019

Mead. Yuk.

There must be a better use of honey. Like honey, for example...