Saturday 17 April 2010

Let's all pull together

I think that everyone would agree with me that our last meeting was all the richer because of the efforts by Ali, Beanie and Jenny who had, at my request and sometimes reluctantly, prepared brief talks on subjects for the meeting:

They also kindly gave me their notes which have been added to the website as a permanent resource for those who missed the meeting, future members and others who I know follow our website from around the globe!

Not only did their contributions expand our knowledge and enrich the website but they found that their research benefited them and, most importantly, they enjoyed it!

Can I again ask ALL YABeeP members who attend meetings to volunteer to do the same at future meetings? We make no charge for joining YABeeP so here is your golden opportunity to give something back, enrich your life and learn something useful at the same time – I'd call that win-win!

Remember, you can do this even if you are new and know next to nothing about bees and beekeeping – you'll be amazed at what you can learn from just half an hour's research on the internet using a search engine – Google is your friend!

There are no experts in YABeeP, and that applies especially to me, so you'll not be criticised, you'll be applauded – you are amongst friends here.

If you want some inspiration see this document for ideas but you can choose any topic you like, whatever interests you so long as it's bee related. In particular we have little expertise on Bumbles and Solitary bees.

It's been suggested that those contributing in this way could maybe jump a couple of spaces in the 'waiting for bee swarms' queue which might be an idea for an incentive, though for the present I'm hoping that contributing to YABeeP is the only incentive required.

Go on, give it a go and let me know!


Wednesday 14 April 2010

Misc subjects

We will add links to miscellaneous topics posted on this site page which will, over time, build to form a subject matter linking page.

Horizontal Hive - Where should my Entrance be?

Several folk are starting horizontal hives (aka Kenyan or long hives) this year [2010] whereas the main hive of choice last year was the Warré - see footnote.

There are, however, a couple of issues around the 'management' of the horizontal hive that, from my own experience, I don't think work so well so I have been seeking advice from a friend, and experienced beekeeper, Gareth John, who uses horizontal hives and whose opinion I really respect. Thank you Gareth.

YABeeP members who have recently built horizontal hives may wish to take Gareth's suggestions on board when starting their own hives and if so, will need to make a small adaptation to their hive entrances before they are populated.  At least you will have time to consider this alternative before starting and, if unsure, discuss it in the group or seek advice on internet forums like the Natural Beekeeping Network.

The horizontal hive we use follows plans generously made available by Phil Chandler - The Barefoot Beekeeper. Admittedly, we tend to make a couple of adaptations by adding top bar rims/buffers, extended varroa trays and windows, but the main hive body is exactly to Phil's design.  I always recommend that new horizontal hive users buy his book as it's excellent value for money and gives you information on how to manage his hive design.

Phil's plans use 3 entrance holes in the middle of the sloping side of the hive and use two follower boards either side of the colony to expand the size of the hive as the season progresses and retract it as winter approaches.

Irrespective of hive type bees tend to keep their brood area (where they raise their young) in the general vicinity of the entrance of their hive and use the further reaches of the hive for storage.

The Problem
By using a central entrance the beekeeper has to, as the season progresses, decide whether to move the follower boards to expand the hive area on the left or right or both sides of the colony. If only expanding in one direction, probably the most logical way, you are likely to meet the end wall well before the season reaches its peak in which case you then have no alternative than to expand at the opposite end. This can cause disorganisation for the bees and will certainly give you, the beekeeper, additional complications when deciding form what part of the hive to harvest comb, how to refresh tired brood comb, etc.. If you expand both sides simultaneously then again bees can be confused and they end up expanding outwards in two directions - basically you end up with a zig-zag colony.

The argued advantage for this central entrance method is that it provides more flexibility for you and also provides a false wall at each end to give additional insulation in the winter.

The Solution
The alternative suggestion, on the other hand, is to use end entrances and just one follower board as is commonly used in horizontal hives in other parts of the world. Indeed since suggesting this I have noted that most of the long style hives I have seen from around the world and those in use in earlier history tend to have mostly end entrances.

The end entrance provides a fixed starting point with expansion in only one direction – you have the whole length of the hive to expand into. Consequently, you end up with a hive with brood at one end and honey at t'other.

Additional advantages include a single direction for the bees to work when consuming stores over winter – they don't have to travel back and forth.

You also have more space at the opposite end to the entrance where you can store your bits and bobs or possibly raise another nucleus – I often found when the hives were getting full that 2 small areas were just too small for other uses whereas one larger space would have been much more useful. This additional space also makes it easier to raise 'splits' in the same hive body. A split is a way of raising an artificial swarm – you split your colony into two having ensured that each part of the split has the correct types of bees plus a queen or viable queen cells.

It is also probably easier for you to estimate the amount of honey you have with an end entrance as you will know that one end is brood and the other extreme pure honey store. With two ends in use there will be two ends where honey may be stored and the demarcation line is not always so obvious – you double the judgement needed.

An End Entrance
We are still advised to have the 3 x 1" (25mm) entrance holes at one end of the sloping wall, rather than the flat end - about 2" from the floor. This way the overhang provides better shelter and mouse protection for the entrance. It also means that your entrance is the 'cold way' on your hive giving your bees access to the sides of the combs. Note: Beekeepers refer to an entrance that that runs parallel to the comb as 'cold' and one that runs at 90° to the comb as being 'hot'. There are argued pros and cons for each but most UK horizontal hive beekeepers tend to use a cold entrance.

Of course, you are free to decide for yourself whether you prefer to use a cold entrance in the sloping side (see illustration) or a hot end entrance.

In Conclusion
Given my previous experience with central entrances and this new advice I am fully persuaded to try the end entrances myself – it makes total sense and will probably make my beekeeping easier. If you wish to do the same then, like me, you will need to stop your central entrances and add 3 holes to one end of the hive. As per Phi's original plans you can still have a second single entrance at the opposite end and side of the hive for future use if you ever choose to do a split or temporarily house a second colony. This second entrance will need to be plugged with a stopper until needed.

For YABeeP members I have purchased a new, more meaty, hole cutting saw since the last hive building workshop so please feel free to bring your hives back and make use of it. However, you'll have to buy your own champagne if you want the corks to bung up the old holes - though I could be persuaded to assist you polish off the contents of the bottle to save it going to waste!

Robin Morris


Footnote: The Warré hive is, in my opinion, the best hive for both the bees and those starting out keeping honeybees due to its simplicity and non-interference management style. However the horizontal hive offers other advantages such as the ability to produce splits so makes an excellent follow-on hive.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

RBI Day Report Back

By Jenny Bradley

Several YABeeP members managed to get along to the 2010 Combating Colony Loss day run by the Regional Bee Inspectors in Devon and this is Jenny's report: 

Whilst the day was centred on conventional beekeeping practices it was suggested that the RBI are becoming more receptive to alternative hives and beekeeping husbandry.

In particular, they are recommending that chemicals for disease and pest treatment only be used where there is a problem, not as a prophylactic. All can leave residues in the hive. The day concentrated on nosema and varroa with workshops on both. Artificial swarming was suggested as one means of varroa control. The old queen is taken to a new hive and the older worker bees follow her. Varroa prefers younger bees and particularly the brood and so mostly remains in the original hive where it can then be killed. Swarming is therefore a 'natural' way of controlling varroa. They suggested monitoring varroa and treating above a certain threshold level. After treatment the mite can be back to full levels within 3 weeks.

Nosema is a parasite that lives in the gut of the bee. It does not cause dysentry but often appears with it. It affects a bee's ability to digest food and prematurely ages the bee thus shortening its life. It can be identified by mashing up about 30 dead bees with water into a 'soup' and putting it inder a microscope. Nosema looks like a grain of rice.

The final talk of the day was from Norman Carreck of Sussex University. Sussex does much work on bees and other swarming insects. His fascinating talk began with a historical account of incidences of bee diseases showing that colony collapse and disease is not new. He said that confining bees to a hive is the ideal place for disease. Colony loss is rarely from one single cause but it is often difficult to pin the cause down. Causes include late springs, lack of food, diseases, too many hives for the available forage. There are 30+ viruses in bees. The university is carrying out research on colony collapse and bee deaths. The amount of damage to a colony is not related to the number of varroa mites in a hive. However it seems to make bees more susceptible to deformed wing virus and to a lesser extent, slow paralysis virus. Research shows that if there are more than 2000 mites in a hive the colony will die within a year, but it is because they have deformed wing virus too. Another virus, Kashmir virus is virulent when varroa is present and harmless without.  The spanish blame nosema for colony deaths, France insectidices and the USA viruses but they all have varroa. The USA has 30% colony losses, Europe up to 53% and Japan 25%. South America, Africa and Australia have no colony losses. Australia has no varroa, african bees are resistant to varroa and south american bees were brought from Africa and although they have varroa, it is a less virulent strain. Research is therefore clear that it is not the varroa in itself which is a threat to bees, but varroa in conjunction with another factor, a virus. Therefore varroa is our major problem. There is a serious lack of control measures and vaaroa has no natural pathogens. Research on a potential fungal control is waiting for further research money, funding having been withdrawn when varroa became so widespread that it was no longer notifiable. There are hygenic bees which are resistant to varroa. Britain has 10% hygenic bees. These are a hope for the future.

The day was extremely useful and it was also reassuring to see that there appeared to be a growing recognition that practice has to change.

Monday 12 April 2010

Planting for Bees

by Jean Vernon

Bees use our gardens and the countryside to forage. Since wildflowers, orchards and hedgerows have been in decline they have become more and more reliant on our gardens.
As beekeepers we can do a lot to support our bees and help provide the best forage plants for their needs. Just by visiting a few seasonal gardens and observing what plants bees are visiting, both bumble and honey, we can get a better idea of what they like and need.
Most plants are good for bees but some such as Alliums are said to enrage them and should be avoided if you have testy bees.
This guide is for all bees not just honey bees. Some flowers such as the pea family, most honey bees cannot access, but these are good forage flowers for bumblebees. For a definitive list of bee plants check the web.

Wild and Natural
There are a few basic rules that apply to plants for all bees. First of all leave an area of your garden wild, where weeds and wildflowers can grow. Bumble bees in particular like a natural wild area to nest and forage. Many weeds such as vetch, clover, dandelions and daisies provide excellent pollen and nectar for bees and should be allowed to floweer.  For the rest of the garden choose plants that are native to the UK, that are not highly bred and that have single or open flowers where the flower parts are exposed for bees to gather pollen and nectar.

Winter foraging
Unlike most bumblebees, honeybees do forage all year round if the weather is conducive. Over the winter the colony is much reduced and feeds on honey and pollen stores, sugar supplied by the beekeeper and also winter flowering plants. By concentrating on growing plants that flower during the lean winter and early spring months the gardener can hugely support local bee colonies.

So what do you grow? If you have a small garden you can still provide plenty of forage for bees but you need to be more selective about what you grow. Think about the boundaries of the garden. Can you plant a hedge instead of a fence? If so plant a mixed hedge of native hedging plants, it will provide shelter and nesting sites for birds and a whole variety of food sources for bees, birds and pollinating insects. Include pollen rich plants such as hazel, blackthorn, willow and alder.

Trees for bees
One or two trees in a small garden can provide masses of pollen and nectar. Again think about things that provide vital food in the winter and spring. Alder is a very good source of early pollen; Crab apples and wild cherries have masses of pollen and nectar rich flowers fairly early in the season. You don’t have to grow normal hazel, though it will provide a harvest of cobnuts too, contorted hazels are attractive and have catkins overloaded with early pollen.

Don’t forget that bees also collect and need tree resin to make propolis. Tree buds before they burst are an excellent source of this resin.

Vertical Gardening
Think about using the vertical surfaces of the garden to grow flower rich climbers such as honeysuckle, blackberries, clematis and roses. Don’t forget climbing beans, sweet peas and other climbers from seed that will quickly clothe a trellis and provide pollen and nectar for bees. Ivy is also an important source of nectar and pollen in late autumn and winter.

Winter/early spring
Winter and early spring flowering shrubs can make all the difference to early foragers. It’s a good time to visit a local nursery or garden centre where you’ll find a whole range of winter flowering and winter interest plants. Choose carefully, avoid double flowered hybrids and buy plants with scented, bright flowers that attract insect pollinators. Many winter flowering plants flower on bare stems, good plants to include are Viburnum farrei and Viburnum bodnantense. Mahonia are a must for winter bees and have fabulous blossom in January and February when the rest of the garden is bare. Witchhazel, heath heathers (calluna spp) and also Ling heathers (Erica spp) are also good out of season sources. Don’t forget early spring bulbs such as snowdrops and crocus and even species tulips.

Late Spring
But in a late spring other plants become essential food sources as the bee colonies increase. In fact this can be one of the most difficult times for the bees to find sufficient food. Flowering currants, aubrietia, berberis, cherries, apple blossom, lungwort (pulmonaria), hellebores and early tulips are all good bee plants for April.

Productive crops for you and bees
One of the most important roles that bees play in our lives is as pollinators. To get the most from your garden consider growing bee plants that also provide a harvest for you. There are many bee friendly herbs that are not just culinary plants; some can be used for medicinal purposes too. Great herbs to grow include thyme, lavender, rosemary, marjoram, borage, chives, catmint (nepeta), fennel, St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), lovage, hyssop and calendula (pot marigold).

For vegetables choose flowering plants such as broad beans, runner beans, peas, mangetout, tomatoes, courgettes, squash, cucumbers, aubergines and French beans to provide nectar and pollen for the bees and plenty of fresh veg for the family too.

Almost all types of fruit, except perhaps rhubarb, (which is botanically a vegetable anyway), need pollinators. Apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, currants, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, blackberries, cherries and more all need pollinating insects to transfer pollen from flower to flower, even a small garden can support a wide range of fruit throughout the year and produce a bountiful, fresh and healthy harvest.

Popular bee plants
Popular bee plants include buddleia, lavender, sedum, clover, Echinacea, rudbeckia, verbena, helenium, weigela and many, many more. Check on the internet for basic lists of bee plants, but also look at what grows locally and which plants attract bees.

All in the name
Look out for plants that mention bees in their names, such as Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm), Melianthus major, Euphorbia mellifera and bee balm (bergamot); these are sure signs that these plants are good for bees.

There are also many annual flowers that can be sown from seed each year to fill gaps in the garden and provide nectar and pollen for foraging bees. Good plants to choose include calendula, cosmos, cleome, poppies and nigella but there are lots and lots of others.

Finally grow a variety of different plants that flower at different times of the year so that there is always something in flower in your garden. Watch which insects visit the flowers and any which are particularly popular with bees and other pollinating insects can be grown en masse the following year.

The Importance of Pheromones to the Sustainable Bee Keeper

by Ali Twigg

Definition: A pheromone is a substance that is externally secreted to induce a behavioural or physiological response in other animals of the same species.

Bees use pheromones as their primary means of communication because in the hive it is dark, so they can’t use their eyes effectively and it’s noisy, so their sense of hearing is no good either.

It is the unique formula of each queen’s pheromones that gives her colony its identity and cohesion. If you imagine people from a different area having a different accent that identifies them to that area, then the same can be said of the queen’s pheromones in identifying her colony as coming from her hive.

Two Kinds of pheromone:

Primer: (more liquid)                Releaser: (more gaseous)
-causes physiological change     -causes behavioural change
-has low vapour pressure          -has high vapour pressure
-long tem control                       -short term control

Bees transmit and receive pheromones.

  • Nasonov gland (at rear end) 
  • Mandibular gland 
  • Cuticle 
  • Koschevnikov gland (in sting) 
  • Dufour gland (in Queen’s vagina; deposits a pheromone on Q eggs so they can be distinguished from eggs laid by workers, which are not required and are therefore not looked after) 
  • Amhart gland (produces foot-print pheromone in Qs and Ws. Not necessary in drones.) 

Bees have chemoreceptors to detect and decode pheromones.

Queen-3,000  Worker-5,000  Drone-30,000 (so drones can detect Queen when she’s on her mating flight-she only does this once in her lifetime. 
Queen pheromones tell drones which Queen is their mother so they do not mate with her. Conventional bee-keeping practice of artificial insemination cannot and does not take this factor into account.

Two kinds of chemoreceptors:
  1. Plates (responsible for detecting smell) Found on antennae only. Can recognise the direction of smell 
  2. Pegs: (responsible for detecting taste) Found on antennae, mouth and legs. Thought possibly to be ingested partly. 
Swarming and pheromones. 
Swarming is started by scout bees and is controlled by pheromones: Q mandibular gland pheromone and Nasanov gland pheromone.

Scout bees also leave an odour trail (NasGPh) for others to follow when they have decided on a new home for the colony.

If no pheromone is present in the cluster of bees that forms the swarm (because the Q is not present), the swarm collapses and returns to the hive.

Conventional bee keeping practice of clipping the Queen's wing causes Queen to fall out of hive when she wants to swarm. Obviously she can’t fly! The resulting lack of her pheromone within the swarm causes the swarm to return to the hive and begin feeding a larva/larvae with Royal Jelly to produce a new Queen(s). It is the Queen’s pheromones that knit the entire colony together and give it cohesion. Lack of Queen pheromone causes both behavioural and physiological change within the colony. Conventional bee keeping practice is to prevent or ‘manage’ swarming because the workers fill their honey stomachs before they swarm and thus deprive the conventional bee keeper of his/her honey. No honey, no profit.

Mandibular gland pheromone is secreted as a warning to others to stop what they are doing or else!

Koschevnikov gland pheromone and nonanol (produced in other glands, esp. nasonov gland) are secreted when a bee feels so threatened that it attacks. Conventional bee keepers advise new-comers to ensure that their bee suits are washed regularly to remove any traces of these pheromones so that new bee keepers are not attacked unwittingly and therefore put off beekeeping.

Bees use pheromones to communicate the mutual exchange of food: adults-adult and adult-larvae. This is termed trophallaxis.

Foraging bees bring home nectar which is regurgitated and reingested by themselves and the house bees until its water content has been reduced significantly to change it into honey.

Larvae produce pheromones to tell the workers what food is needed and to encourage workers to develop their hypopharyngeal gland, which produces a super-rich protein food for the larvae. It also produces Royal Jelly for Q larvae. The workers ‘bathe’ the larvae in food within the brood cells.

Capping pheromone also comes from the larvae to signal to the workers when the larvae are ready to pupate. Their brood cells are capped with the porous waxy substance that will seal larvae in their cell but will still allow air to pass through the cap so they can breathe.

Unfortunately, varroa mites can also detect capping pheromone and will invade brood cells to lay their eggs just before capping takes place. They are especially fond of drone brood.

Pheromones are also secreted by the non-living organism! In order to maintain hygiene within the colony, undertaker bees detect apneumones from the dead bodies of bees and larvae; apneumones conveying the signal to get rid of the dead to prevent the spread of disease.

Pheromones are produced by drones to attract each other to the drone collection area; the place where drones gather to catch the virgin queens on their mating flight. It is my supposition that the queens must also be able to detect the drone collecting area pheromone in order to know where to go to become successfully mated and thus continue their genetic line but I’ve no proof nor anybody else’s research to back this idea up. In fact, as my ‘knowledge’ of pheromones is my interpretation of other people’s research and my lecture notes from various speakers, please don’t take any of the preceding information as accurate. I’m neither a chemist nor an entomologist. Also, where I have mentioned ‘conventional bee keeping practise’ I am referring to what I have been taught is conventional practise on the BBKA ‘Introduction to Bee Keeping’ course I have attended (as outlined by the BBKA) and I am not suggesting that every conventional bee keeper adheres to everything I have been taught.

Having said all of the above, it is my understanding that conventional bee keepers open their hives every seven days in order to inspect them for disease and to see how the stores are progressing. Bees work extremely hard to maintain the temperature, humidity and pheromone content in the atmosphere of the hive, all of which are vital to the health and well-being of the colony. By opening up the hive from the top, which is how WBC, National, Commercial and their hybrid hives are opened, with frames of brood and supers being removed for inspection, and with the knowledge that hot air rises with cold air rushing in to take its place, the carefully controlled atmosphere of temperature, humidity and pheromones nurtured by the colony is allowed to escape, causing the bees to have to start this work all over again. This causes them unnecessary stress and must put their brood in danger of chilling and possibly lack of feeding, since the bees that would be feeding them are having to shiver to raise the temperature, fan to spread fresh pheromones throughout the colony and possibly send forager bees out for water to increase the humidity within the hive. The sustainable bee keeper, using a Warré or Top Bar Hive, does not open up their hive for such inspections, believing in a policy of non-interference (or as minimal as is possible). The resulting continuation of internal harmony has to be of benefit to the health and general well-being of the colony and is, after all, what would most likely happen in nature. Mimicking nature is what I believe sustainable bee keeping is all about.

Pheromones are a fascinating subject. I hope what I have discovered has whet your appetite to find out what you can for yourself. Happy hunting!

10-April-2010 Meeting note

Given the glorious weather of the past 3 days (has spring really arrived at last?) the decision to meet in the garden was an easy one, however, with the growing numbers in the group this is becoming problematic – the size of the group -v- the volume of the birdsong, landing aircraft and bell ringing proved a worthy adversary.

Several members unable to attend had kindly sent apologies – many thanks to Lou & Simon, Nick, Diane & Gareth as it's always useful to know.

Once again many thanks to those who brought biscuits and even baked cakes (thank you Joyce!) especially for us all to share.

Members Update
The usual round table introductions were made to both update us on member's colony progress and for the benefit of those joining us for the first time – welcome Annie, Wendy, Sue, Helen, Rex & Simon. No colonies have been lost since the last meeting but one of Sarah & Robin's is certainly very weak and probably doomed, though surprisingly it is not the one they thought had died out a week ago so watch this space – ain't them bees resilient?!

Future Events
Safe Land for Bees event - A few YABeePers are hoping to get to tomorrow's Safe Land for Bees event at Windmill Hill, Bristol – speakers include Barrie Trower on Microwave Radiation and Carlos Montesanti of the Global Bee Project.

Kingsdown/Cotham Bee Day - Nick and Helen explained about next Saturday's (17th April) Bee Day which has grown out of a local 'Home Grown' produce group run in the Kingsdown/Cotham area of Bristol. The event which launches their bee project runs from 2:30 – 5pm at St. Matthews Church, Clare Road, Cotham and will include film shows, talks, planting advice and produce – all are welcome. Whilst the group is centred around Kingsdown it will embrace the whole of Bristol so may form the catalyst for a Bristol Sustainable Bee group.

Yatton Horticultural Society Summer Show - Juley suggested that following interest generated by a YABeeP talk last autumn to the Yatton Horticultural Society we could put on a display at their Summer Show to encourage more people to have an interest in bees and bee-friendly planting.

It was felt that as each year a local beekeeper has a honey sales stall and viewing hive display at this show we should first approach him to seek his agreement so as not to 'tread on any toes'. We could always focus the YABeeP display around solitary and bumble bees so as to avoid any conflict of interest.

Juley has agreed to make the necessary approach and feed back to the next meeting.

Event Feedback
Several from the group had managed to get along to the Combating Colony Loss day run by the Regional Bee Inspectors in Devon and Jenny kindly reported back. Whilst the day was centred on conventional beekeeping practices it was suggested that the RBI are becoming more receptive to alternative hives and beekeeping husbandry. See this entry for Jenny's more detailed account of this day.

Monthly Features
Planting for Bees - by Beanie
Beanie gave us a really interesting talk on Planting for Bees and kindly submitted a note which you can read here for those who missed the meeting or would like to recap.

Pheromones and their Importance to the Sustainable Beekeeper - by Ali
Ali also gave a fascinating insight to the world of bee pheromones and kindly submitted a note which you can read here for those who missed the meeting or would like to recap. 

What's Going on in the colony? April/May
This monthly slot is designed to inform members about what's happening within the hives, what are the bees up to and what can we expect. 
  • April is true the traditional start of beekeeper's year - April to June is the busiest time for conventional beekeepers who try to manage swarming. 
  • This year we are up to 4 weeks behind previous years, though probably back to a traditional average. 
  • Still critical period for weaker colonies as increasing brood to feed if they have not had weather/time to build up a foraging workforce 
  • Queen laying increased to peak level – may be problem given late spring! 
  • Drone cells will start in earnest this month – from egg to bee = 24 days for drones so you should see the larger drones by at least end of month 
Jobs for the month
  • Check your equipment is ready – in particular wash clothing
  • Add Warré boxes below colony – if need help call on YABeeP support
  • If you are inspecting you hives (horizontal hives) start now on the warm days only
  • Check that you queen is present and laying – eggs & brood
  • Check the brood pattern
  • Check for Varoa and consider sugar dusting.
  • Get swarm boxes ready & out – if possible c. 8' off the ground/south facing/dappled shade. You can add honeycomb/way to increase chances and some swear by lemon grass essential oils as a 'bait' though I'm personally not so sure – you can over scent!
Schools Project
Ali introduced the YABeeP schools project that it has been arranged to introduce school children to bees, to dispel the fear of bees and other insects that young children can have and allow them to learn that they are beneficial and friendly creatures. As we will wish to refer to this project Ali's report has been summarised hereShe will be chasing volunteers for the day in a later email.

Bee Queue – A Policy for supplying bees
YABeeP operates a policy of trying to supply bees for members. This is usually done by passing on swarms, in our view the best way to populate a sustainable colony as they bees are looking for a new des' res', but can be via nuc's, shook swarms, etc..

We have operated a non-discriminatory waiting list approach whereby once it has been confirmed that a member has completed their hive they are added to the list and get bees on a first-come-first-served basis. As membership numbers are now growing fast and we have more members building second or subsequent hives we need to develop policy to ensure fairness in this approach.

It was therefore agreed that from now on we would apply a general rule to limit this bee supply service as follows:
  • 2 colonies per household

  • Only to members who live in North Somerset – this only applies to those joining from this point onwards so those already on the list or who built hives at the recent workshop will remain on it.
Of course, should circumstances change and we get a healthy supply of bees this policy can be revised.

Whilst the geographic limitation may at first glance seem harsh it was agreed that this would be the most equitable way of dealing with a potential limited supply. There are several other ways to obtain bees and members from outside North Somerset who are able to and wish to make themselves available for swarm retrieval duties can be trained by YABeeP and be added to their local authorities swarm list.

Next meeting
15th May when the Monthly Features will include Varroa control & Nosema (Nick), Swarms & populating your hive and Bumble bee rescue. Weather permitting we shall also have a Horizontal Hive Inspection - please bring your bee suits / veils if you have one - if not why not make your own - see this page!

Sunday 11 April 2010

YABeeP Schools Project

Introduced by Ali at the April 2010 YABeeP meeting, this project has been arranged to introduce Yatton Infant School to bees, to dispel the fear of bees and other insects that young children can have and allow them to learn that they are beneficial and friendly creatures - catch them while they are young.

This will happen late April/early May, hopefully early enough for the bee boxes to be immediately populated, and will see YABeeP volunteers go into the school with pre-made flat pack solitary bee boxes which the 8 infant classes will each assemble, decorate and fill with drilled blocks and bamboo to attract solitary bees. They will then use the information they have been given to choose the locations to site their boxes around the school and use an identity chart and recording sheet to 'compete' on occupation an identification of bees. This fits with the current curriculum and agenda of getting the kids outside and interested in the environment.

Both John and Roy have kindly volunteered (methinks Press Ganged more like!) to respectively drill blocks and pre-cut pallets for the flat-packs, Ali is working on the ID chart and record sheet but she is still looking for volunteers to go in on the day to assist the teacher to supervise the assembly and siting of the boxes and answer any eager questions about bees. Ali will circulate the date by email once agreed so volunteers can commit.

It was also agreed that the volunteers would meet up before the day to run through a construction dress rehearsal to ensure all goes smoothly on the day. In return volunteers would leave with their own test bee box they made at the rehearsal.

We shall be using our own box design which has been drawn up to make optimum use of the large supply of pallets we recently obtained, thus making the cost virtually nil. If you wish to have a go yourself you can download the cutting template which gives dimensions and also download the assembly instructions (2 page PDF).

Whilst this has been arranged with Yatton Infant School Ali did suggest that if anyone wishes to make the necessary arrangements with other local schools we will happily replicate this elsewhere.

Friday 9 April 2010

Member's Hives

I thought that it would be worth adding a page with pictures of member's hives so will be chasing all of you for pictures. I'll add them as I get them:

Click on any image to enlarge it

Starting off with Roy's, completed March 2010:

Two of our horizontal's built July 2008 and a pallet Warré from Jan 09:

Peter & Sue's Horizontal (note the clever recycled legs)  and Warré:-

John's Warré box - 2nd pic' with bees:

Andrew & Janice's 2010 Kenyan hive:

Andrew & Janice's 2 x 2009 Warrés (and chicken!):

Beanie and Martin join the queue - what a great use of pallets!:

Now we have Naiomi's hive:

Gareth's joins the bunch:

May 2010 - Kay & Peter's creation:

Wendy's flat roof version:

Sue's now ready:

Kevin's hTBH (May 2010):

At last Lou & Simon get a swarm!
Queen includer for 1st 24 hrs only

Idyllic setting