Sunday, November 2, 2014

Place de la Concorde

We were on our way back to Gare du Nord on our way home, passing by the obelisk at Place de la Concorde, and I wondered, just wondered if perhaps there were any bee hieroglyphs on it...

Can you spot any?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Les Jardins de Luxembourg

Well I finally managed to get here! It took a while. We took time out from our weekend in Paris to seek out the beehives in Les Jardins de Luxembourg.

It's been a beautiful day here; warm and sunny. In fact perfect for walking around the city. We climbed the Eiffel Tower, ate patisserie, drank beer, and generally wandered about. But we saw the bees!  And they were really active, which I guess was no surprise. 

I feel somewhat rejuvenated after seeing them! I've clearly missed my bees and I got a real feeling of peace and calm just watching them for a while. I must now make extra efforts to arrange nucs for the spring!

So, my observations at Les Jardins...

1) Their deeps are really quite "deep".

2) I like the bold geometric shapes used to help the bees distinguish between hives.

3) They make a lot of honey. Did you see the number of supers stacked in the gazebo? I counted 18 hives.

4) Nobody was bothered by the bees, which is impressive given the number in such close proximity to the public. But I guess if you've been keeping bees in the same place for over 150 years everyone gets used to the idea!

So where to next!  I think perhaps a trip to Buckfast Abbey!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

“The Bees” by Laline Paull – A review

I was given this book for my birthday and in the absence of any beekeeping activities in my life at the moment I thought it would be a good distraction.

Did I like the book?  Well, broadly yes, it kept my attention and was pretty engaging, HOWEVER you will not enjoy it if you don’t let little issues like major inaccuracies in honey bee biology and the life cycle of the bee wash over you!  The book anthropomorphises bees to the extreme which is OK, I suppose, but I found the descriptions of the inside “chambers” of the hive far too unrealistic and awfully fantasized.

The most disappointing part of the book for me was the fact that the main character, a laying worker, laid an egg that developed into a Queen!  This is just not possible and it undermines the entire story line.  I’m not sure how such a fundamental flaw crept into the plot given the preponderance of apparent experts quoted and acknowledged in the book, but it’s there nonetheless.

Summary:  If you are a beekeeper you will/should not like this book!.  If you are interested in bees I hope it switches you on to some of the many brilliantly written non-fiction books on the subject which are actually far more enthralling!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Even more confused!

Back in May I spotted some "Immitation Honey" in a local store in Kirkwood. It confused me a lot, to say the least.

Well, the store has done it again! Surpassed themselves!  I didn't think it possible to find something even more ridiculous, but then there was this on the shelf today...

WHAT? Honey in powder form?  But why? Well here is the answer...

Spot it? 

The reason is that "It's the easy way to enjoy honey at anytime, anywhere" and (look carefully) it says the goodness of honey has been preserved into a convenient powdered form...! 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Back in the UK

Well, I've been back in the UK for about a week now. The weather on my first Sunday back was lovely, but the early part of last week was just grey and cold. I'm not sure if I saw the sun for 3 days. However, my spirits were lifted this weekend as it's been bright, warm and sunny!

And the bees! So many bumble bees around!  The whole place seems to be just teeming with them! It's utterly brilliant! I've noticed that the road verges don't seem particularly well maintained so there's lots of wild flowers (or is that weeds) about; you can almost (almost) perceive a background drone, but I may be imagining that just a bit.

So what of my getting restarted? Well, since I've been back I have managed to get in touch with the local Town Crier/Gardener (don't ask!) who is thinking if he knows anyone with an orchard or suitable site for 4 hives, and friends are also putting the word out that "Phil's looking for an apiary site!".

I've located a couple of local beekeepers. One is reportedly a "professional" so I can't wait to find out what that means! And I now know of 3 beekeeping clubs in the area; Farnham, Petersfield and Wisborough Green. So that means there is tonnes of potential for conflicting views and theories on keeping bees for me to wade through!  I can't wait!  Someone has already remarked, on hearing I came back from the US, that I'll have some "funny ideas about equipment"!

And word of my "hobby" has already spread around the office! To the extent that a couple of people have already asked what I have available!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Last couple of days!

I'm into my last couple of days here in Missouri; well if you exclude the week I come back for in July! All my bees are gone, my equipment sold, all I have left is a couple of tool boxes, 2 unused mating boxes and an observation beehive (empty). It's sad; the end of a chapter!

But there's a new chapter about to start and there are lots of blank pages to fill! The British Beekeepers Association has an excellent website that I can use to locate a club near me and through their swarm page I hope to find local beekeepers who can help me start up again!  

It's not a bad time of year to start again, but I'll wait until next year to get my bees. Instead I'll spend my time finding an apiary, deciding what type of hive to use,  building the equipment, researching clubs and not least adjusting to a new climate!

I'm really wanting to keep Apis Mellifera Mellifera but we will just have to see how that goes! 

So watch this space for developments!

It's been an absolute blast in Kirkwood, St. Louis. I couldn't have asked for a better group of mentors than I found at the Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association, and so many thanks (I cant count them all) go to my neighbour who got me started back in April 2009! Little did I realize how much fun it would have been and how much it has changed my life! Thank you Susan!

And as the slogan says...

I certainly will!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Black Locust is flowering

My friend John Pashia posted that the Black Locust tree is in bloom. This is great news as it is a very significant source if nectar in these parts.

If I remember correctly it was mid April last year (2013) that the black locust bloomed and it was fantastic then. A full week in bloom with no rain! We can only hope it's like that this year!

So get out there and super up everyone!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Sting in the tail; well the neck actually

I finished beekeeping today at Ladue. My first stop was at the split I made for J├╝rgen in his beeyard. This is doing very well! You may remember it was basically Queenless in my backyard for quite a while. I relocated it, put in some eggs and brood and a couple of days after that a new queen.  When I looked in today it was filling very strongly with new larvae; probably 4 or 5 frames.  I didn't bother to find the queen!  So I reckon this needs some supers and soon!

At my apiary in Ladue the hive with the week queen I replaced has also taken well. I need to find some frames to complete a second deep and this needs to be done reasonably quickly.

The hive "north" of this was also very strong again containing plenty of brood, eggs and larvae, but no sign of any swarm cells. I put on 2 supers.

The final hive; the one I always do last in this beeyard because they are temperamental, was like the northern hive. There was plenty of brood, eggs and larvae and again no swarm cells or sign of any being made. 

The problem here was that a couple of bees somehow got in my suit and I now have a nice sting on my neck! Anyway they also deserved supers and I put on 3. Two are already drawn out the other is mostly foundation.

A good day's beekeeping and I'm now ready for a nectar flow!

Swarms and Splits.

I handed over, or at least started, the transition of my care of the bees at the Botanical Gardens this morning.

The split I made a couple of weeks ago looks good. The queen has clearly been accepted and she's started to lay. I would have hoped for more progress but at least she is laying now. Maybe the recent cold slowed her up?

The hive the split was taken from however was full of queen cells! Here are three...

I was with Jane Sueme and we decided to take the existing queen away (to simulate a swarm) and also to remove most of the other queen cells. The old queen was marked and put in a nuc box with a couple of brood frames. We left a couple of the queen cells in the remaining hive, having removed most of the others.

The cells in the photo are "spare" and I may use them in another hive, should they be needed. We hope the hive won't swarm now we have removed queen cells and that the old queen can be used elsewhere!

An interesting morning and I've not been to Ladue yet!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I'm confused!

I saw this in my local store...

I've never seen anything like it before! I mean, sugar free imitation honey! What's the point?  What's the purpose? 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Selling and Relocating Hives???

So what was the reference to selling and relocating I hear you ask?  Well to cut a long (reasonably traumatic) story short I am moving back to the UK (Haslemere, in Surrey) to take up a position with the company I used to work for before I came out to the US.  It wasn’t an easy decision but I think it was the right one for us as a family and me professionally.

As a result I have been selling off my beehives and equipment.  Importation rules prohibit me from bringing back any equipment, so all that I have accumulated has to stay behind to be sold or given away.  But looking ahead and being positive about things, the good news is that I will once again be starting beekeeping from scratch, with new equipment (will I use Langstroth or shift to another type of hive…), with new bees (Apis Mellifera Mellifera perhaps?) and a whole new beekeeping calendar to learn!  I never kept bees in the UK so I have little appreciation of how different the seasons are; when the spring nectar flow starts, when I need to start building up hives and how different preparations for winter will be.  It will be very interesting that’s for sure!

And the news got better yesterday.  I remembered that the late father of one of my old school friends used to keep bees. So I dropped Howard a line and he said that he would let some of his Dad’s old pals know I was looking to start up in the UK.  I hope they will be able to help me adjust and perhaps even help me locate a suitable apiary!  I’m getting excited about keeping bees at home. I love new challenges!

Having said that I’ve sold, or passed on, my equipment I still actually intend to have a honey harvest just before I leave Kirkwood in July.  I’m not sure where, or how, I just know that I will be “supering up” this weekend and that any honey that is in the hives come the first week of July will be harvested and I will be passing out some leaving presents!!!  So get your jars ready!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Queens Released

I went around the three hives and released the queens this morning. All appear to be being accepted, so I took the tape off the plug and will go back in just over a week to see if they're laying.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spring Queens

It's Easter Sunday so the perfect time to install new queens. I got hold of four lovely Italians on Saturday and spent Friday preparing hives and splits for their arrival. Here they are...

I made a split from the single hive at the gardens; taking 4 frames of eggs, brood and pollen from the hive there and transferring it to a new single deep.

I took frames from the two strong hives in Ladue and put 4 into the weak hive there. I also killed off the ineffective queen in this hive. 

I relocated the weak hive I had at home to one of Jurgen's Ladue apiaries and added four frames of eggs, brood and pollen (from my Ladue hives) to this hive as well.

The final queen went to split a hive I sold to my friend Paul a week ago.

So the end result is....

No hives in my back garden.
Two hives at the Botanical Gardens. 
Three hives in Ladue; one requeened.
One hive to be sold to Jurgen and currently relocated to one of his Ladue apiaries.

Why selling and relocating hives?.... More on this later...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Manipulations

Just before Spring Break I reduced my hives to single deeps and today I went around my hives to check on progress.  It was a mixed bag but quite interesting all the same.

At home the hive I had combined with another remained weak. There was some brood in it and I saw some bees hatching, but there was no sign of eggs or larvae and I couldn't find a Queen.  That said, I thought I saw a very small queen.  Could it have been a virgin queen? I don't know but what I saw was very small and it had a pointed abdomen. So it looked like a miniature queen. I will check in a week to see what changes there have been in the hive but I suspect this hive will have to get a new queen in a couple of weeks time.

The hive in Diane's yard is roaring with life! Before Spring Break this had brood in the super that was under the deep.  Today when I checked the super, this still had some brood in it, and there were five or six frames of solid capped brood in the deep. I added a second deep, and put the super above this.  I suspect this hive may be a candidate for a future split.

In Ladue the weak hive there had some small amount of brood. The queen is present and laying, but slowly.  Perhaps she will be replaced by one of the new queens when they arrive! The other two hives are doing well and will likely need second deeps sometime towards the end of this week. Currently they have three or four frames of capped brood.

The hive in the botanical gardens is similar to Diane's. Plenty of frames of capped brood and buzzing! I added a second deep.  most of the new deep is just foundation and will have to be drawn out so I will persist in feeding it for the time being.

Overall it seems I have four really strong hives that will probably be split and two hives that may need new queens. I have four queens arriving in mid April; two will be used in the weak hives and two will be used to split the strong hives. I am encouraged there will be a lot of bees around for the spring! Lets hope the nectar flow is strong!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Nectar Flow

I was asked today what I thought the spring would be like! It's been such a long cold winter I really wouldn't have a clue where to start trying to forecast anything like that.

However, I do know when I'd like spring and the nectar flow to start... When I got in to look at my hives last week there was  no brood in most of them.  So given that the queens may have been laying this week, and given that it takes 21 days for a worker to emerge, and given that another 3 weeks must pass before forager bees start their job, I hope the nectar flow doesn't start going fast until around April 20 or even later. 

Normally people reckon the nectar flow starts in St Louis around April 15. All I can say is that i hope it is late this year, or I'll have too few bees to take advantage of it!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Topping up...

As predicted I needed to top up the feeders. Down at the Gardens the bees consumed an entire gallon of sugar syrup in 4 days; I refilled the feeder on Thursday. In Ladue the weak hive there needed more as well, but only a couple of pints or so.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ladue Inspection

I almost didn't go round the apiaries today as I thought it might be too cold. However, in the sun it was lovely so I went to the hives in Ladue and at the Gardens.

I went to the Gardens first and fed the hive there; a gallon of 2:1 sugar syrup. I expect I'll have to go back on Wednesday to fill up, or at least to check on it. The hive cluster looked tight so I just left them after filling a division board feeder. Maybe the feed will stimulate brood rearing? I can hope!

After visiting the Gardens I went to Ladue.  I saw two queens in the three hives there. Oddly, the 'weakest' hive had a queen but I didn't see one in the 'strongest' hive. I reduced all three hives to single deeps and I will discard the oldest frames. I better start ordering new equipment!

In Ladue the two strongest hives had sufficient stores but the weak one was light so I'll will feed this. I'm not sure if this will help but it certainly can't do any  harm. I'll go back tomorrow to feed using a division board feeder.

So what have I learned from this first round of spring inspections and manipulations?

Firstly, bees are very good at surviving cold weather. Of the 8 hives I had going into winter one died, and one was combined with another. Not bad, but there is still some way to go before winter can be called over! 

Secondly, I think the cold may have delayed brood rearing. Only one of the 6 hives has any brood in it, yet I saw queens in all but 2. I'll ask around the beekeeping community to see what other   people have seen. I feel a question for bee club on Wednesday...

I think there will be a few warm days coming this week and I hope this will start to awaken the plants and trees. Newly available forage will be welcomed by the bees and I really hope that they start to rear brood in quick time now.  With luck the 4 queens I have ordered can then be used in nucs and I can start a few more hives.  I think I have enough deeps for up to 9 or 10 hives. It would be cool to expand to that, but challenging too!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Spring Manipulations

It's been a lovely warm day and the bees are loving it!  So I decided to interrupt their fun and rummage through my hives.

I did the two in the backyard first then the one down the street. I got to the garden hive late this afternoon.

One of my backyard hives appeared Queenless; there was no brood, and not many bees. So I combined this with its neighbour. This hive did have a queen but there was no brood in the hive as yet. I added some pollen from a couple of spare frames and I also reduced the hive to a single deep before combining the two. The weak hive I put over the strong but separated by a sheet of newspaper. They seem happy enough...

The hive in Diane's yard is strong.  Lots of bees, in a super and in a deep, a queen, some food and some brood (in the super). The hive had 2 deeps. The bottom deep had no stores so I removed it! The super I then put under the remaining deep which had some stores. Hopefully the queen will move up and start laying in the deep now.

Down at the gardens it was a similar story to the hive at home; a queen, a good number of bees but no brood, and only a little by way of stores.  I think I may feed this hive and put in a frame of pollen.  But I need to check if feeding syrup at this time of year isn't too early.

So it was a good day all round, even though I'm down to 6 hives, I feel good about what I have seen.  but I think some feeding is now in order.  I will try to go through my other hives on Sunday or Monday.

I wonder if anyone else out there has seen queens but no brood?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

First good weather for ages!

I can't remember the last time it was this warm! I expect we'll be told by the weather people tonight but it seems like ages!  And what's more there are at least 3 days of this to come - in a row!!!

I took the opportunity to go and have a look at the bees in the Botanical Gardens this morning.  I wasn't disappointed! I think they must be almost as excited as me to have some flying weather.  The hive was positively spewing out bees from the bottom entrance and the top entrance!  It was just wonderful to see! And no small relief either after such a long spell of cold weather.  So here are a couple of videos of what I saw...

And as a bonus the bees in the three hives in Ladue and my two hives at home are reported to be flying about today as well!  So, just the hive just down the street to account for now; fingers crossed!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My bees are alive!

It was warm today! Ok so not 'shorts and tee shirt' warm but certainly warm enough for me to take a very quick look in the top of my hives at home, without worrying about chilling the cluster.

And I found bees buzzing at the top of both! Remarkable! It's been so cold for so long you really just have to wonder and marvel at their resilience and hardiness! Still I suppose 65 million years of evolution has to count for something!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is this more evidence of neonicotinoid poisining?

Professor Dave Goulson is a respected UK bee researcher and has just published further evidence of the harm neonicotinoid pesticides may be doing to bumblebees.  Every time I see an article on the research being done into neonicotinoid pesticides and it's effect on bees it does not supporting the use of these systemic chemicals.

ee collects pollen from a cherry tree in village Studencice, Slovenia

The chemical companies state that the research does not mimic real field conditions, yet they have no credible field research data themselves that proves their chemicals are safe.  If it were easy to do then I guess the likes of Bayer and Syngenta would and should be doling this.  They haven't!

Here is a link to the latest news...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Deep Winter Peek!

I heard grave news from the Gardens...  My surviving hive had no visible activity over the "warmer" days we had this past weekend.  So it was with some trepidation that I went there yesterday lunchtime (January 14) to see if the reports were true; that this hive had succumbed to the cold.

My hives at home had been flying over the weekend, albeit one more than the other, so I knew it wasn't too cold for flying. But I had fed these hives a couple of weeks ago so perhaps this fuel could have kept them going.  I had not managed to feed the hive at the Gardens.

So I went to the gardens armed with some mush (4lbs sugar to 1 cup water) thinking I could put emergency food above the cluster if I needed to.  Anyway, I got the Gardens; it was windy and cold.  Once at the hive I noticed a solitary bee circulating in front of the entrance.  Was this a bee from the hive, or one from somewhere else? I couldn't tell.  I lifted up the back of the hive.  It seemed heavy enough.  So I cracked the inner cover (which I can do directly as the outer cover is on top of some insulating board) and there I saw a quite large cluster of bees - clearly alive. Phew!  A sigh of relief!

It was too cold and windy to do anything stupid like open the hive and disrupt the cluster so I am simply happy to know that there are live bees in the hive - quite a number - and there also seem to be resources available.  I closed up the hive and will come back another (warmer) time, with my mush!

This Sunday looks like it will be the day.