New adventures

WP_20180615_011.jpg“So what are you going to do with the bees?” it was the first question that anyone asked when I said I was moving house. The bees had lived for two years in a back-garden hive but now the tenancy was coming to an unexpected end. I needed to find new places for both me and the bees to live – and house-searching with a bee colony in tow didn’t seem to be a sensible option.

“Can you set them free?” asked Cassie, one of my colleagues. I tried to explain that they were already free: “they can already go wherever they want, they choose to come back”. Yet somehow she imagined that I could unpick whatever sage-scented magic drew them into the hive and send them pouring forth into the world, perhaps the swarm forming the shape of an orca whale as it brushed my outstretched fingertips and breached over the fence towards the Elder Stubbs allotments.

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Training new beeks

Opening an (empty!) Warre hive in the kitchen

In early February, we held a couple of afternoon training sessions for new beekeepers, to give them an outline of what’s involved in keeping bees in the UK.

We started with basic biology, and how this drives their very alien behaviour – their social interdependency; how they perceive the world through very different senses; and why they exhibit behaviours like swarming and making honey.

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Moving hives less than 3 miles

The “3 foot / 3 mile” rule-of-thumb refers to how if you move a hive more than 3 feet, sometimes returning foragers cannot find it. Their internal maps are so precise they get confused, and keep looking where the entrance “ought” to be. To move a hive to a new position, you can do it in small hops, one a day. If you move the hive far enough away they will re-orient on the new position, but “far enough” is 3 miles. If the new position is nearer to the old one than that, they recognise landmarks and navigate back to the old one.

I posted the following advice about how to move a hive between these extremes on a forum, and was soon asked for permission to reproduce it elsewhere. So I guess it’s worth repeating… Continue reading

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ONBG Meeting, 1st Dec 2018 – insulation and instrumentation

Wifi temperature sensor module under TBH quilt

Eight beeks and some interested neighbours gathered at Gilliane’s house on the edge of Oxford to see her hive upgrades with cork insulation, how she remotely monitors the temperatures inside them, and to swap bee stories.

Gilliane has already blogged about her initial insulation and measurement experiments here, and has since been working on insulating a second TBH – which is unoccupied so she can do a more extensive job on it. Continue reading

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Learnings from the Learning from the Bees conference

Some of the 300 delegates relax, mix and learn from each other

In my earlier post on the Learning from the Bees conference, I discussed the “who was there and what it was about” aspects. This article covers what I actually learned about bees.

I always particularly enjoy lectures and books covering “weird stuff I have seen over many years which you won’t find in any book” and there were several speakers on this, and opportunities to learn about exotic situations from foreign beekeepers.

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Meditations on the Learning from the Bees conference

At the end of August the world’s first major international gathering of natural beekeepers, Learning from the Bees, took place in the Netherlands. The atmosphere had a festival vibe and concentrated on healthy bees and improving the environment, rather than the commercial / honey emphasis of most major bee events. The subject that kept coming up was natural selection.

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Presentations ranged from research scientists like Professor Tom Seeley (famous for his studies of wild forest bees in America) and Peter Neumann (molecular geneticist, President of COLOSS) to environmental activists like Terry Oxford (US pesticide campaigner), Deborah Post and Tom van de Beek (planting / education initiatives in Holland and Germany), and well known authors like Jacqueline Freeman. There were also artists and poets, reminding us of the impact of bees on human cultures.

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Posted in Ecology, Experimentation, Honey bee research, Log hive, Pesticides, Research, Skeps, Sun Hive, TBH, Warré | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Hive insulation using cork

There has been considerable interest over the years in the use of hive insulation to provide an environment for the bees that is closer to their natural habitat of the interior of a hollow tree trunk. Reported benefits include reduced expenditure of energy by bees in cold weather and fewer condensation problems, leading to lower colony losses over the winter in insulated hives.

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