More bad news for insects

New German research has found that insect numbers have plunged by 75% over 25 years, in nature reserves. It’s assumed the decline outside the reserves is greater. The Guardian reports on the issue here.

Germany is generally considered significantly better at conservation and environmental protection than Britain.

The cause isn’t determined but the chief suspects are the overuse of pesticides (specifically neonicotinoids) and lack of forage in surrounding farmland.

Watch for the usual pattern of denial, obfuscation and denigrating the research from the usual suspects.


Posted in Pesticides, Ecology | Tagged | 6 Comments

New Arrivals: The Rat Box Bees


the Rat Box, half hidden by fallen leaves and privet honeysuckle (Lonicera pileata)

There are now colonies in both of my hives. The Brexit Day colony are still strong, their entrance crowded with constant forage-traffic. Beside them are the Rat Box Bees, new arrivals to the garden. Their entrance is less busy – usually one or two foragers coming or going, then perhaps thirty seconds of total inactivity, before the rush as three bees return, with six packs of ivy-pollen clamped to their legs.

I found the Rat Box Bees in the week when September became October. I was walking home from work, and noticed honeybees flying into the undergrowth on the edge of the Science Park. It wasn’t the slow flower-to-flower forage-flight, but the determined bee-lines of homeward journeys. Some were carrying pollen: there was definitely a nest somewhere nearby.

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Posted in Experimentation, Hives, Swarms, TBH, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

ONBG meeting, 9th Sept 2017 – colony personalities, and ferals

An “observation” Warré box with TWO windows, allowing comb to be viewed edge-on and from the side

Eleven bee enthusiasts met in north Oxfordshire to discuss preparation for winter, look at feral colonies around a village, and discuss how colony personalities differ. This last is because we get a lot of questions from people concerned that their hives are not doing what the books say they ‘should’, or that their two hives are behaving completely differently. Luckily the local apiaries contain colonies with varying degrees of eccentricity!

Eric explains how to poison people

But first, Eric gave a splendid presentation on a related subject related tangentially to beekeeping – the medicinal effects of common plants that can be found in our gardens. As a doctor, homeopath and beekeeper, he has noticed his interests converging on these plants and how common they are. Peppering the lecture with references to Brother Cadfael, dispatching vampires, and the dodgier uses of some plants he led us through an A to Z of healing, mood altering, fever control, tonics, oncological applications, touched on Chinese medicine, and finally apitherapy – the use of bee venom in medicine. Continue reading

Posted in Apiary visits, Meetings, ONBG, Stings, TBH, Warré | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

After a sting

bathroom window.png

“through the bathroom window I watch the flightpaths of the bees”

I am indoors. The garden is filled with late-summer light, and through the bathroom window I watch the flightpaths of the bees, rising up beyond the shed roof. But I am staying indoors. A week ago, I reacted badly to a bee-sting, and I do not yet know how I will respond to the next one. It will possibly be a more extreme reaction, so until I’ve been tested for an allergy, I won’t go near the bees. For the past week I’ve been avoiding the garden: taking out the compost in the middle of the night, and wondering if there’s a socially-acceptable time to mow the lawn, after the bees have finished their foraging but before the neighbours have gone to bed.

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Bees and beekeeping in Borneo

Discussing beekeeping in the UK and Borneo over a coffee in Oxford

Recently I met with Made Setiawan, a medical anthropologist and ethnographer who lives in Oxford. He works for the Indonesian Katingan Project on a reforestation operation in Borneo, working in an area where the native forest has been largely razed by logging. One aspect of this work is using bees to help reboot the ecology.

We discussed the differences in bees and beekeeping here in the UK and in Borneo.

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Lore of the Honey Bee

I’ve been looking at an old bee book, The Lore of the Honey Bee by Tickner Edwardes. There’s almost nothing in it of relevance to us because he was what we’d call a conventional beekeeper, and the book was written in 1908 before… well, everything: mechanised agriculture, varroa, even tracheal mites. But he mentions a few things in passing I thought noteworthy… Continue reading

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ONBG meeting, 15th July 2017 – a rooftop apiary

Eight of us met atop a building in central Oxford where Will keeps six hives, a mix of Nationals and their big brother Commercials, twenty metres above street level. He blends natural and conventional beekeeping, being treatment free, using foundationless frames, and preferring examination of floor debris to opening hives. It was the first time some of us natural beekeepers had seen inside a framed hive and seen equipment like queen excluders.

From up here you look down on mature trees. Click to expand

These hives are managed for a honey crop and I have to say the samples we tasted were much fuller tasting and more interesting than the honey from my own rural hives, which tends to be dominated by Oilseed Rape. These bees are near the Botanic Gardens and University Parks, and a riverside, which have a huge variety of exotic plants. Continue reading

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