Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bee activity is slowing; did I choose the best spot in the garden for my hives?

Are the two related? I’m not sure, but now that the sun is getting lower in the sky, there is only a limited window of opportunity for my hives get to be warmed by it! They are unfortunately being screened by the shadow cast by the house and also a large tree trunk. It was strangely noticeable that one hive (the eastern one, and coincidently the ‘weaker’ single storey hive) gets more direct sunlight and it was this hive that showed more activity at the weekend!

Basic physics: direct sunlight = heat gain by radiation = warm happy bees!

That said neither hive was particularly active, so I thought that might mean my girls are eating the syrup I added, instead of foraging outside. Nope! The syrup remains pretty much un-touched. Maybe now perhaps it is time to give up the syrup feeding, remove the feeder and put on the insulated top cover and shut up for winter. I’ll let nature do its thing, and with luck, both hives will survive the winter and will look strong going into 2011! Shutting them up does not of course exclude some winter feeding with Pollen Patties or “Ted’s Mush” (if it gets warm enough to open the hive), but I reckon I won’t start looking into that until Late January at the earliest!

Better get thinking about some more equipment….

Queen of the Sun!

Susan and I went on a beekeeper outing last night to see a new documentary about CCD; “Queen of the Sun”. Overall it was beautifully shot, interesting, thought provoking and quite inspiring - a bit of a reaffirmation of why I started beekeeping in the first place.

My gripes with it were that it was a little disjointed and there didn’t seem to be a progressive flow through the film, but that is only a minor gripe. My main problem was that it tended to marginalize and stereotype beekeepers – I bet you didn’t think that was possible! Yes, I know we all like “interesting characters” in our films, but looking at most of the participants you'd be forgiven for thinking that in general beekeepers were slightly weird hippies who believed in biodynamics, and probably astrology too! The only ‘normal’ beekeepers that were depicted (with one notable exception, and I’ll come to that later) were those “money grabbing, evil, factory intensive” beekeepers (that’s me demonizing them), who transport thousands of hives across the country in order to pollinate the monoculture of almonds in California. Well fortunately, most of us really are normal, honest! If only they had filmed at a few local beekeeping association meetings!

The film could also have made a lot more of the urban beekeeping movement, and how anybody can get involved i.e. broaden the appeal. Sadly, I left feeling that either you had to be a slightly odd biodynamic farmer (thankfully located away from any centres of population) or a dredlocked gay hippy living in a deprived city neighbourhood. There wasn't enough time given to the middle ground. Hey, but least the most normal beekeeper appeared to be the English (of course) city beekeeper and his step son!

Marks out of 5? Well on balance 3.5. It’s a worthwhile, enthusiastic film that presented a very serious issue in an engaging way and which left people feeling that there is real hope our pollinators can be saved, so long as we get involved, and stem our current thirst for industrial agriculture.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Winter's coming!

It was cold the past two mornings. And now that the clocks have gone back winter feels like it has finally arrived.  That said it is forecast to be warm this week.  So that might mean there is still a chance that some sugar syrup may be consumed.

I took a look today to see what syrup was consumed over the past week - well not much as it turns out!  I think this might have something to do with the fact that I fed the syrup in zip-loc bags with holes pierced through the top to help the syrup ooze out, but this didn't seem to work well as little syrup has been taken by either hive.  So I cut a cross in the top of each bag and folded the flaps of plastic down into the syrup.  Perhaps this will make it easier for the bees to get to the syrup.

I'll check their progress next weekend, if it is warm enough. I'll also probably put a 2" thick insulating board on top of the inner cover as well, just to make sure as much warmth as possible is retained in the hive. This board has a channel cut in it to give the bees access to the top of the hive as well as the bottom.