ONBG meeting, 1st April 2017 – an emergency cut-out

Using a bee vac to collect the last few bees. This is what happens if you invite beekeepers to your house.

Ten of us gathered at Rachel’s home to rescue an endangered feral nest from the wall of a building about to be demolished, relocating it to her Warré hive. The bees had been living in a cavity behind a bricked-up window for at least 6 years, possibly over 10.

The meeting was the opposite of our usual low-intervention approach; you can’t get more invasive than cutting out an entire nest and transferring it, along with the bees, their brood and stores into a hive. Yet the bees were incredibly calm. At some point early on, the smoker went out and no one thought to re-light it.

This was the first time any of us had done a “cut-out” but Richard, who has rescued many bees from buildings, had previously surveyed the site and lent us tools including a bee vac, and given us copious advice which proved invaluable. Continue reading

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Spreading the Bee Buzz #11 – Starting Beekeeping

The latest in our series on beekeeping for a village magazine – written for non-beekeepers, and to suit the broad range of ages and knowledge among the readers.

Beginners usually spend some months reading, learning about different appraches, and training, before choosing a hive type and getting bees in Spring. As with anything in life, it is wise to begin by considering why you want to do something and what you hope to get out of it, before investing time and money; there are different types of hive optimised for different purposes. Your primary interest may be honey; pollination; conservation; or you may simply be fascinated by the behaviours of such alien creatures. I know people who just unwind by watching their bees.

Continue reading

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Two swarms in the same hive: an update

Last summer, I wrote about the arrival of two swarms into the same hive. A wild swarm had settled in the empty top-bar-hive in my garden, and a week later a second swarm moved in. The arrival of this second swarm was not resisted in any way, and the combined colony has remained strong and healthy. I was not able to reach a definitive explanation, but have since found similar accounts, which are discussed here. Continue reading

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ONBG meeting, 12 March 2017

A Newbee special

We gathered at the Marsh Harrier pub in Oxford on a Sunday afternoon to discuss beekeeping with some interested “newbees” who were seriously considering keeping bees themselves.

It’s remarkable how bees spark discussion: just carrying in a tiny hive (made for transporting swarms), a bartender spotted it and reminisced how his grandfather in Albania kept bees in the wall of his house, where they could fly out a hole in the wall, but you could open a cupboard door and observe the nest from inside the house. His first question after “are you a beekeeper?” was “do you use chemicals”. (No.) Continue reading

Posted in Apiary visits, Hives, Meetings, Members, ONBG, Pests, TBH | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Beginners start here

The first OxNatBees meeting of 2017 will be at the Marsh Harrier Pub in Oxford at 2pm on Sunday 12th of March.

The main focus will be on discussing plans for the coming year. There will also be some ‘pre-beginners’ who are considering getting bees – we hope that the experience and expertise of the group will help answer their questions. If you are reading this and considering keeping bees, feel free to drop by and ask questions.

Location: The Marsh Harrier pub on Marsh Road (OX4 2HH). For public-transport travellers, buses numbered 1 and 5 run from Oxford City Centre to Marsh Road every 15 minutes.

It’s five-minutes’ walk from Jack’s house, so there’s potentially an opportunity to come and look at his top-bar hive if the weather’s fine.

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Angry bees

Feral nest at head height next to path. Many guards versus wasps etc, but humans are ignored.

Feral nest at head height next to path. Many guards versus wasps etc, but humans are ignored.

This article dispels the myth that our native black bees are inherently ‘bad’, i.e. overly-defensive, and instead sets out the real genetic basis of why crossing bee races, black or otherwise, can lead to hybrids which are predisposed to be ‘hot’.

It turns out the real culprit for overly defensive strains of bee is … beekeepers. More specifically bee breeders thinking they are improving their stock by utilising queens of a non-local/imported race, but whose resultant crosses can make both their hives and their neighbours’ bad tempered.

Saying that bee breeders’ common practice for over a century is flawed is bound to be controversial, but I assert that free-mated local bees are ‘best’ (and not only to avoid ‘angry bees’) – follow the article through and decide for yourself.

Continue reading

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Winter forage

Bee on snowdrop. Click to enlarge

Honey bee with packed pollen baskets. Click to enlarge

After some frosty days, a warm sunny one yesterday and the bees were out harvesting any blossom.

Snowdrops provide a source of pollen, needed for early brood raising.

Today it’s chilly again and they’re all indoors. In winter, you take any opportunity you can.

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