Sunday 28 March 2010

Hive building workshop

Saturday - 27th March 2010

Just a quick post to record the brilliant hive building workshop we had yesterday. This was a day to build horizontal or Kenyan style hives, to the Biobees template with additional viewing windows, varroa trays and side bars.

The day started with a really slick production line as people volunteered to prepare different parts ready for later assembly. We started out planning to make 9 x 4 foot hives but in all the confusion of parts moving around the site we lost count and in the manic enthusiasm we miscounted and the parts for 11 were made! Well I'm not accepting responsibility - I've only got 10 fingers after all! Not only were the folk making hives there but a couple of other members turned up during the day to help, cajole and generally get in the way lending advice, making cups of coffee, etc.

To the amusement, or probably downright annoyance, of the nearby neighbours there were times during the day that we resembled a ramshackle orchestra. At full volume we omitted the music of sawing, planes, power saws, drills and the occasional vocal line "Ouch, I've bashed me finger!".

Yet again the weather was kind to us so we must be doing something right! It was just as well really with that number of people as we'd have never all squeezed into the garage and conservatory even without the hives had the weather turned wet. Some of us even picked up a tan from being outside - or was that wind burn or just plain old fashioned dirt?!!!

The day ended at around 5:30 following a team photo just for the record followed by with a steady funerial procession of cars apparently odd shaped collecting coffins for their journeys home. And yes, Beanie proved that you can fit a 4' long hive into a Smart car!!!

Many thanks to all who brought along vitals like biscuits, cake, coffee, and even licorice comfits for us all to share. Not only did we assemble the 9 planned hives and have 2 flat pack hives left over to boost club funds  but we all had an really enjoyable, worthwhile and quite tiring day. And what about the cost? doing them in bulk and using some recycled pallet wood we were able to produce the 4' hives with viewing windows for £28 each, less for those who used just pallet wood - eat your heart out Omlet!!!

Ain't this sustainable beekeeping great?!!!


PS: I drafted a document for those who made hives at this day describing how to complete your top bar hive which you can download here from Scribd 

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Interesting Snippets

This page will be used to add interesting snippets of information on bees that don't necessarily fit anywhere else. Pop back here from time to time to check out what interesting or fun things have been added:

Thursday 18 March 2010

So beekeepers are to blame!!!

The Times has featured a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) that suggests that it is untrained beekeepers who are to blame for the spread of disease - read it here. Oh really!

Apparently the NAO "is concerned that the control of varroa is being hampered by the lack of colony inspections by the National Bee Unit, part of Defra. It is also unhappy that control efforts to date have failed to prevent varroa, which was not seen in Britain before 1992, from becoming endemic in 2006."

This makes me so angry! Why do they insist on chasing the symptoms rather than the disease. If these energies were instead put into banning importing bees and educating beekeepers to use local bees instead we'd keep the nasty diseases out of the country and reduce the need for bee inspectors!!!! How do they think varroa got here - through lack of inspections?!!!   Mad

Monday 15 March 2010


A secret world of heat in honeybees - Professor Jürgen Tautz.

It will be worth watching BBC One's new series Richard Hammond's Invisible World, where technology is used to give a glimpse into previously unseen worlds. The episode on the 23rd March will be used to reveal the findings of Professor Jürgen Tautz, the head of the bee group at Würzburg University, in Germany. He has discovered that Honeybees precisely control the temperature inside their hives to determine which job their young will perform in the colony when they mature into adult bees. See this Daily Telegraph article for a sneak preview. Prof. Tauz was the main pull for many of us to sing up for the recent Somerset BKA Training day. Unfortunately, he was ill at the time and advised by his doctors not to travel.

What a great shame that the BBKA, who are quoted in the Telegraph article, only see it as an opportunity to interfere with bees more more by using this new work as a criteria for selecting bees for breeding. Why can't they accept that their interference is wrong? Up to now they thought that bees leaving empty cells was a bad thing and tried to breed it out! The bees know best how to breed strong bees, leave them alone BBKA and try sustainable bekeeping!!!!

Prof. Tautz's books are always to be recommended, especially The Buzz about Bees: Biology of a Superorganism

Sunday 14 March 2010

13-Mar-2010 Meeting

Yet again a glorious day for a YABeeP meeting – the first true day of spring perhaps? It was so good that we made a last minute change and held the meeting in the garden. We even had a honeybee floating amongst the group for much of the meeting – clearly a sign that she approved of what we were discussing!

As this was the first meeting of our second year with both new members and those from last year we ran with a standing agenda to make sure all tastes were served – we'll stick to this format for future meets. Here are some of the main points we discussed:

Member's Update
Following a round of introductions we enquired how many hives that went into the winter survived. Of those present, plus a couple of members who gave their apologies, we ascertained that of these 9 hives that went into winter all but 1 survived and that was a late swarm which seemed to have starved – dead bees buried face into cells. The dead out was only established just before last summer's appalling weather. Could other members not present today please report back?

Future Events

  • Four YABeePers are attending the RBI Combating Colony Loss day at Tiverton next Saturday – there are still places left.
  • The Safe Land for Bees event is on Sat 11th April – Windmill Hill Community Centre in Bristol
  • Nick Miller will be holding a launch meeting of the Kingsdown (Bristol) bee project using top bar hives on Saturday 17th April – details will follow when published. Nick kindly showed us an example of the hives they will be using to host feral bees as part of this project.
Event Feedback
Ali kindly gave the group detailed feedback on the presentations at the Somerset BKA Lecture day on 20th February which all YABeeP members who attended seemed to enjoy.

What's Going on in the colony?
This slot, designed to inform members about what should be happening within the hives, will become a standard agenda item. Volunteers to present it would be greatly appreciated (hint, hint!)

  • The long, cold winter has been a benefit following last summer's appalling weather as the bees have been in winter cluster for long periods. Consumption of their stores drops to virtually nil during cold spells whereas in a mild winter they don't cluster and can eat all their stores and starve.
  • Queens will also have stopped laying during this spell allowing the cluster temperature to drop. They maintain 20°C when broodless but have to raise this to 35°C when brood is present.
  • Longer days and occasional warmth will have triggered the queens into laying, normally in January but probably later this year given the harsh winter. They will now (March) certainly be laying.
  • In a way now is the danger period – if a warm spell is followed by another lengthy cold snap they will struggle to feed all the extra and growing brood and may consequently starve if they can't get out to forage – you'll be glad you didn't take their honey last autumn like the conventional beek's do!
  • They can now be seen on warmer days on cleansing flights (watch those washing lines!) and collecting pollen & nectar - snowdrop, crocus, catkins, mahonia, etc. Why not buy or use an online pollen chart to identify what they are bringing back? 
  • Most of the winter bees will be dead come the end of March with the new girls taking over their duties – watch for bees taking orientation flights – sort of figure of 8s facing the hive. All female bees are genetically identical and yet summer workers live just about 6/8 weeks, winter bees live 6 months and the queen, who's only difference is the diet she was brought up on, can live for several years - apparently it is believed to be switches in the genes that determine longevity.
  • Some years early drones (male bees) can be seen by the end of March but, given the recent winter, I expect it will be well into April before we see them this year.

Jobs for the month
Again, another new but to be regular feature.

  • Bumble nests must be prepared and out by now [indeed I saw 2 bombus terrestris queens out today – 14/3/10] 
  • Clean any hives that were empty over winter and may have grown mould – use washing soda (its high pH will help kill bacteria) or scortch with a blow lamp.
  • Ensure there is a water supply near to your hives. Bees prefer water with algae in it rather than what we would term as 'clean' water as it is thought that they derive some nutrients, etc, from it. Place a bucket or larger container, fill it to the top with stones then water and allow the contents to turn green/black with algae. A layer of moss on the top or wool/straw fibres is beneficial. They will alight on the stones/straw and drink. Ensure the water is topped up in dry spells.
    Alternatively why not add a natural pond near the hive? Plant it well (the rhynes around here are a great source of free planting!) and don't add fish - let it self populate with frogs, toads, newt and other creepy crawlies; bees aren't the only beneficial insect after all! So long as there is plenty of vegetation it will make a great water supply for your bees plus an attraction for additional wildlife - win win!
  • If you have a varroa screen now would be a good time to do an occasional mite count – we will cover this in detail at the next meeting.
  • If you are feeding (but please, only in dire emergencies for sustainable beekeepers!) then change from fondant to syrup.
  • Don't be tempted to open your hives to inspect unless the temperature reaches 16°C. 

YABeeP Membership

  • There will be no changes to our lose and free membership structure and it was agreed by those present that emails sent by YABeeP would continue to use the To: box for the member circulation list so members had access to each others emails.
  • Robin again appealed for ALL members to volunteer to adopt a topic to research and feed back to the group at future meetings. Can all year 2 members who have not yet done so please volunteer for a topicdownload the updated list here.

Hive Building Workshop – Saturday 27 March
As we need to to order the materials, we need to know the following by Wednesday 17th March:

  • Whether you wish YABeeP get the timber (£1.0 per mtr + vat) - it should total around £30 for a 4' hive inc. glue and screws, around £5 more if you add an observation window.
  • Whether you want an observation window?
  • If you want materials for more than one hive.

Schools Project
Sarah has suggested a project with the local Junior School – we are currently awaiting their response. The proposal is to pre cut some solitary bee nest boxes which the kids can assemble in a supervised session. They will then have record sheets so they can record and feed back (make it a competition?) their population and possibly species. If we get the go ahead we need the following – can you help?

  • More volunteers to help pre-cut pallets to join Ali, Robin and John - John has experience of a similar bird nest box project in Devon schools.
  • Pallets – Lou can provide some but more always welcome
  • Old bamboo canes 
  • Someone to lead on the project – any volunteers?

Monthly Feature - Introduction to Sustainable Beekeeping
New members were given our introduction talk – and nobody ran for cover! 
One of our new members (sorry, I didn't write down who but I think it was Kay?) suggested that we could organise plant swaps for future meetings. When growing plants from seeds or cuttings to attract bees we could exchange any surpluses amongst the group to encourage more bee friendly planting. We will pursue this at the next meeting when we discuss Planting for Bees as our monthly feature.
Next meeting
10th April when the Monthly Features will include Planting for Bees (Julie, Beanie & Di), Varroa monitoring and Horizontal Hive Inspection with, weather permitting, a live inspection - please bring your veils!

[All original photographs on this page of Apis Mellifera © Robin Morris and were taken in St. Margarets garden - 14-Mar-10

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Standing meeting agenda

Now YABeeP is growing we are suggesting that future meetings follow a Standing Agenda as shown below.
This has been designed to provide more of a structure and ensure that we make the meetings of value to both new and existing members.

Of course meetings will remain very informal, as before, and we have no plans to change our overriding philosophy of having fun  - we'll continue to enjoy helping the bees!

Suggested Standing Agenda for YABeeP Meetings:
Part 1 – The meeting - (times as guide only)

  • Welcome & Introductions (5 mins)
  • Update
      • Upcoming events (5 mins)
      • Recent events report back (5 mins)
      • Member's colonies & nests update (10 mins)
  • What's going on in the colony this month (10 mins)
  • Jobs for the month (10 mins)
  • Monthly feature/s (10/15 mins each) - One or two slots on an aspect of bees given by members or occasionally a guest speaker
    • Agenda items raised by members 
    • AOB
    • Next meeting - date, venue, speakers 

    Part 2 – Colony inspection, networking & social
    Dependant on time of year, weather and hive type this can range from a quick external peek to a full inspection of honeybee, bumble & solitary colonies – to include tea, coffee & biscuits and occasionally a post-meeting picnic/BBQ.

    Thursday 4 March 2010

    Ali's bag of pooh

    For YABeeP members:

    Ali managed to get a bag of old mouse bedding & pooh from Rowntrees Garden Centre which she used and kindly passed on to me. Ali suggested that we 'pass the parcel' with it so that everyone that wants a bite can have some.  If you'd like some mouse droppings email me and I'll pass it on as now's the time to get those bumble boxes out!

    For those of you not in the know the dirty mouse bedding is to go in the bumble bee boxes we made last December. Bumble queens, at least the Buff-tail (bombus terrestris) - the most common species of bumble, like to nest in deserted mouse nests so the poohy bedding is to attract them. If you didn't make a box it's not too late to set up a flower pot or paving slab nest . But you need to hurry as the queens emerge from hibernation about now looking for their nest for this year. Once they are settled it will be too late!

    Let me know if you want some pooh!  See you at the next meeting a week Saturday.

    [8th Mar 10 - Edited to add that the offending article has now been passed on to Roy, ring him if you need some]
    Bombus terrestris courtesy of Wikipedia Comms

    Safe Land for Bees - Bristol event

    I've just realised that, although I emailed YABeeP members a while ago, I have not posted information on the site about the Safe Land For Bees public event they are holding in Bristol on Sunday11th April. It takes place from 1 – 5 pm at Windmill Hill Community Centre, Vivian Street, Windmill Hill, Bristol, BS3.

    This is their press release

    Safe Land for Bees, a west country community group which includes some Bee-Keepers, will be hosting a Public event on Sunday 11th April 2010 at Windmill Hill Community centre, Vivian street, Bristol, BS3 4LW. The aim of the event is to provide information about the situation bees currently face at which Barrie Trower, Scientific Advisor to the Radiation Research Trust and to HESE, will present a new paper titled 'The true cost of damage to the environment (ecosystems) from the Telecommunications industry'

    Safe Land for Bees group aims to create a network of land where bees can thrive. Our community event seeks to celebrate humanity's relationship to the bee and yet to recognize the serious trouble they are currently in and to encourage and explore how people can respond to that. In addition to Barrie's speech, we also welcome the
    Global Bee Project, who will show slides of their educational work.

    Throughout the day, there will be a 'Bee Bazaar' of stalls from local and regional organisations and individuals who share an interest in wildlife or are inspired by bees to create. Acoustic music will provide a warm atmosphere.

    Bees are under threat. Colony Collapse Disorder and other diseases are leading to rapid declines in the number of both honey bees and wild bees. Many possible causes have been identified and well publicised: pesticides, industrialisation of bee-keeping, mono culture and the lack of wild areas in our countryside. However, there is now evidence to suggest that microwave radiation from mobile phones, masts, WIFI, TETRA etc. is also a major cause of harm to bees and all wild life.

    "Within my capacity as a scientific adviser, I receive many research papers from all over the world and I believe what is happening to Bees is also happening to other living things" Barrie Trower

    This event will be fun and family friendly where all are welcome; a day where people can learn more about the dangers of microwave radiation and how to become a true bee supporter in a way that advances the cause of bee health while being practical and meaningful to them.

    We hope to see you there!

    For more information regarding the event, contact 0117 953 3430 or email or