Where are all the swarms this year?

Noooo! One of the few swarms this year enters a roof as I arrive just too late

The bees in this area have been acting very unusually this season: firstly high mortality at the end of winter, and now far fewer swarms than usual. We’ve been discussing this amongst ourselves and here are some preliminary conclusions.

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Posted in Ecology, Garden plants, Local lore, Swarms | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

ONBG meeting, 20th May 2018 – TBHs and tall tales

Telling tales round the camp quiche

An anarchic group of beekeepers met on a very sunny day at Shadiya’s farm near Oxford to celebrate International Bee Day with a picnic and a peek at her Top Bar Hives.

We began by discussing winter losses, which were high, and swarms – which were almost totally absent so far this year (but started a few days after this meeting). These are probably linked: England had a “false start” to Spring, followed by a week of intensely cold Siberian winds (the “Beast from the East”). This knocked back spring blossom by about 6 weeks, and the colonies are only just beginning to swarm. Continue reading

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ONBG meeting, 21 April 2018: swarms, and learning from mistakes

Lured by chocolate brownies, ten of us gathered at Brian and Faith’s house  in Summertown to prepare for the impending swarm season, view their hives, and meet like minded enthusiasts.

Below, are our checklist for swarm catching, descriptions of Brian’s experiments modifying hives, and tales of Learning From When Things Go Horribly Wrong…

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The Hive at Kew Gardens


Joy: a pair of magpies have made their nest high in the metalwork

A pair of magpies have made their nest high in the ‘Hive‘ sculpture in Kew Gardens. They saw a chance to steal a space amidst the shine of aluminium, and are filling it with branches and twigs from the trees of the world: Ginko biloba, Sequoia sempervirens, Sophora japonica. Soon, magpie chicks will hatch into this exotic cradle, and grow their wings in a world of metalwork and cello-notes.

The Hive sculpture is certainly worth visiting if you get the chance. It’s about the size of a house. From the outside it looks like a huge, shining cube of smoke. Once inside, it is dome-shaped, like a giant igloo, or the interior of an empty skep.

The latticework of the structure is set with lights and speakers, and the entire huge assembly is connected to an unseen beehive. Vibrations from inside the hive are translated into music – one frequency may create a rising sequence of cello notes, another triggers a crescendo of strings. Different speakers play different sounds, so The Hive is filled with a constant hum of instruments, rising and falling in volume, controlled by the dancing of the bees. Continue reading

Posted in Hives, Technology, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Visiting the Bee Pubs: Part 1

WP_20161105_054In the last two years, I’ve seen a lot of drawings of bees trying to play guitars. They’ve been on posters, on chalkboards, on signs and on flyers but I’ve yet to see a bee that’s succeeding. The guitar is designed for a two-armed human, and a guitarist generally requires the standard-human arrangement of shoulders and elbows. The honeybee lacks these things. And even when the arm arrangement can be satisfactorily depicted with a few lucky pen-strokes, the rear legs are used for standing, and there’s always a leftover set, the pair waggling awkwardly in the middle.

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ONBG meeting, 10th March 2018 – overwintering, pests, crime and apps

Our first meeting of the year was at the Marsh Harrier pub in Oxford: 16 people dropped by to chat.

Discussion ranged over how our hives had fared over winter; floor debris advice for newbees; problems with badgers; Small Hive Beetle; hive thefts; and poisoning from crop sprays.

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Posted in Meetings, Pesticides, Pests, Swarms | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments