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

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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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OxNatBees exhibit at RSA Motivate

Written by Alison

OxNatBees was represented at RSA:Motivate, a gathering of community, citizenship and environmental activists, on Saturday 10 June at the Oxford Town Hall.

Alison, Ann P and Paul set up the stall in the exuberantly baroque surroundings of the main hall, among some 30 other groups which were represented (details at http://rsaoxfordshire.org.uk ). Helle arrived and also helped out answering queries and explaining to enquirers the low-intervention methods of ‘natural’ beekeeping, while Robin, Sarah and Linda dropped in later to help out. Continue reading

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‘Inspecting’ your bees – the low-intervention way

All beekeepers naturally want their bees to be healthy and thriving, and periodically ‘inspect’ them to determine how they are doing. Responsible apicentric low-intervention beekeepers want to do this with a minimum disturbance to the integrity of the bee colony.

A lot of clues about a colony’s state can be gathered from external observations, without opening a hive –  here I discuss how to do this, what to look for, focussing on features of low intervention hives and natural comb. I also review the very few occasions when it may be really necessary to open a hive.

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