Friday, July 3, 2015

A Grand Day Out!

What a lovely day!

Still high after the inspection carried out yesterday I spent some time researching hives and asked a few people on Facebook which vendor they thought would best serve my needs. 

I got lots of good advice but I eventually settled for Thorne in Windsor. I went to their website to check their location but found they had an outlet near Stockbridge just outside Winchester (kind of).

Now it's about the same distance as their Windsor store from me, but Stockbridge is so much nicer to drive to!  A road trip on the A272 beckoned!  



I love this road between Petersfield and Winchester!  Great views across wonderful fields of wheat and some seriously good driving bends!  Oops! This is supposed to be a bee blog!

So hives... 

I have been very pleasantly surprised by Thorne's hives.  I'm used to Dadant solid pine hives which are good, utilitarian, but good. 

Thorne's hives are cedar - even their budget range - and they aren't what you call cheap, but the standard range (not budget range) is nice quality.  I'm looking forward to a weekend of assembly.  Once put together I'll post some pics of the finished product!



Anyway, after a very enjoyable time at the bee shop my wife and I (I had to drag her along) ended up at the Bombay Sapphire gin distillery in Laverstoke!  

This is only a fewinutes away and it would have been rude not to go!

The distillery is in a lovely spot at an old pape mill at the head of the River Test; as clear a river as you can imagine. And a very informative tour we had too, followed of course by a rather splendid cocktail!  


All in all its been a great couple of days, bees and gin, beautiful weather and scenery! And I'm currently cooking paella drinking some Spanish rose wine!

I LOVE SUMMER!




Thursday, July 2, 2015

Happy Beekeeper!

I just completed my first inspection of my new UK bees.  To say I'm excited is a bit of an understatement!

It's been raining on and off today and I was a little concerned the bees would be a bit moody.  But by 2pm it had dried up and they proved to be on their best behavior; calm and easy to work.

Dave and I installed the swarm a little under a month ago. We fed them about 7 or 8 liters of syrup in the first week but since then we left them alone to get on with things.

Dave has been watching them over the month and has seen plenty of activity so we had no cause for any concern.  And so it proved today!



They're in a national hive which is smaller than I'm used to but I like the size, and especially the reduced weights, of the frames! For those interested they are in the "warm" configuration!

So, in the last month 5 frames have been fully drawn out. Two are full with capped honey and three have lots of nice capped dense brood. A classic pattern of brood, pollen and honey stores was evident on the frame - the photo above picks it out well.

I didn't see the queen, but there was no need to as everything was in order; young larvae, calm bees, no queen cells. All good reasons to be a happy beekeeper today!


Monday, June 8, 2015

A PVC Queen - you just can't make this up!

I'm up and running again! Albeit with a lot of help from a new beekeeper friend.

I was lucky enough to be at a friends garden party yesterday afternoon in Pine View Close (PVC to the initiated) when a swarm decided to settle in a hedge just over the road!

Much excitement; a huge cloud of bees was reported to be flying all around. It was abundantly clear this was a swarm looking for somewhere to settle, and sure enough within 30 minutes they formed this beautiful cluster:


It was super calm and about 2.5 m up in a beech hedge.

I put a post on the "Haslemere Swap and Sell" Facebook page hoping it would be found a home, and within an hour I had a post from someone who said their dad was interested.  

We chatted and he asked me if I wanted to keep them for myself.  I told him yes I'd love to, but that I had no equipment or anywhere to keep them.  Dave very kindly said that he would happily loan me some equipment and he also offered to host them at his apiary. I jumped at the opportunity! Top man!

We decided to meet up the next day equipped with our swarm catching equipment; so long as the bees hadn't gone!

Now I haven't seen my stuff for about a year, so I surprised myself that it was all together. 

Bee suit? (Including holes) Check!
Gloves? (Covered in Missouri propylis) Check!
Boots! Check!
Step ladder, pruning shears, branch loppers? All check!

...Good to go!

We met at 6pm and found the bees just as (and where) they were the previous night!  Interestingly we were almost identically kitted out, even down to the make, age and model of our cars? What is it about beekeepers and 1999 Peugeot 406s?

However, crucially, Dave also had a large sheet and a skep which was put to excellent use:



Once the swarm was safely wrapped up and popped in the boot of his car all that we needed to do was install them.

I've never installed a proper swarm before (I once found a swarm on the ground which didn't survive; queenless I think) and it's a truly remarkable thing to watch. 

Dave had already set up a hive with frames of foundation and he had prepared the entrance by laying an old cupboard door up to it like a ramp. 

The bundle of sheet and skep were then placed at the bottom of the slope and then unwrapped.  The sheet was quickly laid over the ramp and tucked in under the entrance opening.  

All we needed to do was lift the skep, give it a tap to dislodge the bees, and in double quick time they all marched up the slope and into the hive. 

All done in about 10 minutes.  Brilliant!


There's a feeder on top of the hive now, so all we need to do is feed them tomorrow to give them a kick start.  I'll make up some syrup as well and I'll go along on Thursday or Friday to feed them again. 

I'll keep feeding them but leave them a good week on their own before I inspect them properly.  I remember the first package of bees I got in St. Louis drew out bare plastic foundation and started to lay within 5 days. 

This looks to be a very strong swarm (I reckon 20,000 bees?) so I think they will be really buzzing!  I'm really really excited to get back in the bee game again! 

A Brilliant Day, and to cap
It all have PVC Queen to brag about!

It now looks like I need to buy National sized equipment; Langstroth stuff is available but is just not common.  Anyone got any suggestions?

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...

I.am.speechless!