Another unintended pesticide impact

The Guardian newspaper has recently reported that a common neonicotinoid has a dramatic effect on songbirds at very low doses.

This emphasises how our use of agricultural chemicals can have unintended consequences, and the importance of the Precautionary Principle. Birds aren’t the target species – they’re not even insects! Continue reading

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Back to school in Wolvercote

A few days ago two OxNatBees members were invited to Wolvercote Primary School to introduce children to bees and beekeeping as part of the school’s Big Science Day (along with investigations into Worms, Fireworks, Electricity, Microscopes, Rockets, Floating and Sinking, and Slime).

Ann P and Paul were assigned to Badger Class and set up a display of beekeeping equipment, posters and pictures in an alcove off the classroom. We talked to three classes over the course of the day and had taken along loads of things to show them.

Favourites proved to be examining an open (but empty) hive and handling its comb, tasting honey, and of course dressing up in suits and veils! A big thank you to Ann W, Will and Jack for lending us child-sized suits and suitable veils. And a big apology to the cleaners and parents for the sticky floor and clothes after the kids found the jar of runny honey…

Continue reading

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Storms, swarms and ox-born bees

WP_20171017_016.jpgOxford: the day after Storm Ophelia. I was walking home through the suburbs, and looking for bees. A beekeeper in Liverpool had reported an October swarm, possibly brought on by the unusual weather, so I was watching for swarm-scouts, or for other bees behaving in unusual ways.

In a subway under the ring-road I found what I was looking for: there were four of them, moving strangely inside the tunnel. They were flying an inch-or-two below the ceiling, and investigating the cracks and the crevices, the screw-holes and the edges of the maintenance hatches, looking and measuring with their bodies.
Continue reading

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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 Ecology, Pesticides | 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.

Continue reading

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.

Posted in Stings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments