from Jacqui and me to this record of our experiences as new beekeepers in The Marches.

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Wednesday, 24 February 2010

temperature change

At last warmer temperatures. Reached 12.5c just after lunch and the bees were straight out. Some on the grass (for water?), others to the snowdrops. A sharp shower sent them back in after about and hour.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Dedication to knowledge

Snow and dodgy road surfaces did not deter Hamish from driving Andy and me to Kidderminster last evening for a talk "Hobby and Professional Beekeeping" by Michael Collier (from whom we bought our first bees) organised by Kidderminster BKA.
Michael is particularly interesting because he has experience in all three of the categories that he describes namely: "Hobbyist" (up to say 12 hives); "Sideliner" up to 150 hives; and "Professional". His view is that about 400 hives are required for any chance of a full-time living.
He described aspects of working for professionals both in the USA and Canada each with 4000 hives as well as his own approach.
The audience included both experienced and novice beekeepers so the questions were many and varied. Michael fielded them with easy competence demonstrating his unfailing respect for the bees' welfare, and detailed knowledge of their natural history. I had much material for my notes as well as some valuable individual advice from him after the talk.
Thankfully the gritters had been out so our return over Clee Hill was safely accomplished before the frost set in.
I hope the bees appreciate the efforts we make to understand them.
Thanks to Hamish and Andy for a most enjoyable evening

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Valentine and mites

St Valentine is the patron saint of beekeepers. Perhaps thats why this weeks mite count is down to 6 ie., less than one per day. There have been no cluster bustering days until today at about noon. Temp in the shade 7.5c but in the sun it went above 8c so out they came. Several seen on the grass, presumably collecting water, and others on the Snowdrops. They are obviously itching to get out and about. Clouding over this afternoon so they will not be out for long.
Three vintage Bentleys drove by, thats a rare sight these days.
Neighouring meadow still has some flooding. On looking out first thing there was the Heron, a couple of Mallards, and a Raven in the trees beyond.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Oxalic Acid

Culain asked if Oxalic Acid can be used a second time if the queen has yet to lay. I have been told that it must only be used once in a season but not the reason why. I see that the BBKA say in their leaflet issued in 2007 that a second application can harm the bees but no further detail. An interesting issue I'm going to read further.

Monday, 8 February 2010

low mite count and other things

Yesterday (Sunday) carried out 7 day mite drop count - 38 making an average of just over 5 per day. There were two cluster busting days on Thursday and Friday with quite a lot of activity so the lower count is encouraging.
Attended L&DBKA AGM on Saturday when there was a solid attendance. Culain's quiz based on identifying Bees, Wasps, Flies, and lookalikes was not only good fun but very revealing. The winning score was excellent but that was the exception, the general ability to identify our local flying insects is not that good even amongst experienced beekeepers. By no means everybody spotted the Honeybee Drone!! Culain has created a permanent display collection for reference by Assocn members.
On Friday we saw what at first looked like lumps of residual snow in the plants around the garden pond. Closer inspection revealed a whitish jelly some of which was clean but other clumps had clearly been through some creature's digestive tract! Some lumps were found in the water about 2 inches below the surface. "Frogspawn" was my first reaction but closer examintion did not reveal the tiny black dots or egglike structure. 2 dead frogs were, however, found in the water. The Heron has been around this last week, would he have tried the spawn? Could the jelly have been some kind of algae? On the whole I am inclined to stick to my original view but maybe the spawn is unfertilised or has been frosted. A small sample has been taken from the water and put in a container in a cool corner to see if any development takes place.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Warmer at last

Sun out and temp reaching 12c has opened the Snowdrops and brought out the bees in force. Foragers all over the garden. Some collecting water from the grass, others working the Snowdrop flowers. Great to see them out with a purpose even for a short time.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

a midweek flight

Tuesday morning was miserable with cold blustery rain. Then things cleared at lunchtime, the temp rose to 9c, and the bees were out straightaway in some numbers for cleansing flights. Whether there is sun on the hive or not it seems that their preferred min temp for flights is about 8c in calm conditions.
Thanks to Culain for a lift to Ludlow Assembly Rooms last night to see "The Vanishing of the Bee", much enjoyed. The production was a little on the parochial American side. I did like the short scene where smoke was seen going back into a smoker!! The film's conclusion is that there is no one cause of Colony Collapse Disorder but many contributing factors.
The honeybee is very tolerant of sympathetic husbandry based on respect for its lifecycle and essential needs. It seems to me to be common sense that a creature that exists not just as in individual but also as a complex colony depends upon delicate systems that are not fully understood but easy to disrupt.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Sugar is interesting

Before today all I really knew about it was that a spoonful helps the medicine go down. Thanks to an excellent article in BBKA News by Dr Julian M Cooper I now know my Fructose from my Glucose. Its only fair to the bees that I should try to understand the background to the miracle that they perform in producing a product that cannot artificially be made.
I am pleased to see the medicinal qualities of honey are not just the product of old wives tales. One of the products of the bees' enzyme action is hydrogen peroxide giving some antiseptic properties to honey.