Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Winter is over and here come the girls….


Its been relatively quiet down at the apiary over the winter months with the bees mostly staying in their hives even if they did not cluster for long periods due to the warm weather we experienced again in the south east.

I did not feed any syrup in August following the honey removal last year as it was such a good year that the bees were still bringing in pollen and nectar late into the season and I had left a good amount of honey on the hives as this has to be better for them than a sugar substitute! I checked back on the bees around new year when I also applied oxalic acid, dribbled between the frames to help control the mite whilst the colony was without sealed brood, and gave each hive some bee candy above the crown board as an insurance policy against starvation. Its always nice to see the girls doing well at this stage but I am quite aware that this is never a guaranteed sign that they will all make it into spring.

The bees were still quite active and a few followed me when I left the apiary which was sad knowing that these would soon chill and fail to find their way back home….

View across the new apiary site in April 2015

View across the new apiary site in April 2015

My bee buddy Paul and I also moved the apiary to a new location around new year, it was only a few hundred meters across the land so that the bees will now get more light earlier in the day as they had become overshadowed by the tress rapidly filling the skyline around their old homestead. Winter is one of the few times you can move the hives like this, at other times you have to stick to the ‘less than 3 feet or more than 3 miles’ rule to prevent the bees returning to the original hive location and clustering on the ground.

We strapped the hives but didn’t block the entrances and wheeled them carefully across the bumpy ground in a wheelbarrow. All the bees behaved and stayed indoors until we got to the final hive with the feisty black British queen (these are my best honey makers) and they came streaming out en-mass and found a hole in Paul’s gloves to let him know about their disapproval, needless to say I ended up moving that one on my own.

Bees landing at the hive

I returned to lift the roofs and check how the bees were getting on in February and a couple of hives had started to nibble the candy, despite still having some honey in the outside frames, just goes to show that they would rather go up than sideways in their search for supplies.

Early April saw a mini heatwave across the UK with above average temperatures and sunshine hours and the bees didn’t waste a minute of it. The bees have been very busy and nearly all the hives had 8 or 9 frames of brood and pollen across the ‘brood and half’ system that I run. With colonies this strong it was definitely time to add the first supers to give the bees more room for stores, prevent hive congestion and maybe delay the inevitable swarming for a couple more weeks whilst I get my backup gear sorted and ready for use.

As a beekeeper with a busy life, young family and full time employment I don’t often get the opportunity to simply stand back and watch the bees but I recently took some time to photograph the bees activity at the apiary and just enjoy watching them in flight bringing in the spring pollen, you can learn so much about the strength and health of a colony through observation at the entrance and its far less intrusive to the bees than opening the hive up. I hope to get the time to do this a bit more often in the future….

landing gear down

landing gear down

Lots of activity at the hive entrance

Lots of activity at the hive entrance

The weather has become more unsettled, with cooler wet and windy weather across the UK this week and the girls are not flying as much but I have no doubt that they are still just as busy indoors and planning the plot to their own ‘game of thrones’ so now I am just waiting for a break in the rain to try and catch up with them….

As ever I will be adding to this blog as and when time allows and I am not actually elsewhere or with the bees in 2015, thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings and for your continuing comments and questions – this makes it all worth while for me as the writer….

I can also be found at @danieljmarsh on twitter or British Beekeepers page on Facebook.

Guard bee at the hive entrance

A worker bee guarding the hive entrance

Bees in my garden ….


I think its very hard to be a beekeeper and not take an active interest in all the bees, and other insects, that you come across in your garden or when out and about. I don’t keep my honey bees at home due to living in a build-up urban area with smaller gardens so I don’t often get the chance to just sit and watch my bees outside of my apiary visits.

I do however grow as many bee friendly plants as I can and try and encourage both wild bees and honey bees into the garden as well as producing a source of pollen and nectar to help conserve these solitary bees. Over the last couple of weeks I have been really enjoying watching the bumblebees tumbling all over the flowers on my raspberry plants – there are several distinct species and there is a great tool online from the Natural History Museum website to help you identify them – it helps if you take a photo for reference, here are a few of mine below (clicking on the images opens a higher resolution image in a new window):

Bombus pratorum (Early Bumblebee)

Bombus pratorum (Early Bumblebee)

Whilst I was studying these bees I noticed some appeared to be falling to the ground and landing on the grass, on closer inspection it also appeared that the bees were fighting amongst themselves – all very strange and certainly not something that I had witnessed before so I contacted a local entomologist, Dr Ian Beavis, who is a great source of knowledge (as well as an enthusiastic leader of many bug safaris in our local wild spaces) to see if he could shed some light on this unusual behaviour.

Bombus Hypnorum - disorientated on the grass after a fall from flight

Bombus Hypnorum – disorientated on the grass after a fall from flight

He replied to say not all is as it first appears, the bees are looking for a mate and will barge into and grab a partner whilst in flight, then reject them when they realise that they are the wrong species or sex which leave the slightly disorientated bees falling to the ground. They don’t seem to get hurt and soon recover enough to carry on their foraging amongst the flowers, until the next suitor arrives on the scene that is….

Bombus Hypnorum -

Bombus Hypnorum – feeding on raspberry

A recent NERC study ‘Lonely bees make better guests’  has suggested that solitary bees are twice as likely to pollinate the flowers they visit as their more sociable counterparts so we must consider these bees equally as important as the honeybees we are used to tending to and  look to try and prevent their decline with as much energy, if not more so, as at  least the beekeeper can split a colony or breed additional queens to make up for losses.

Bombus Hypnorum -

Bombus Hypnorum – easily identified with its distinctive red/brown jacket and grey/white tail

Of course the bees are not the only visitors to my raspberry patch – right now there seems to be a wealth of insects flying around and feeding on the rich nectar including this Harlequin ladybird, image below. If you spot any of the different ladybird species in your gardens it would be greatly appreciated if you could help out with the UK Ladybird Survey, again there are all sorts of tools and downloadable PDF’s to help you identify the ones that you find and this is also a great activity to carry out with kids, teaching them the importance of nature.

Harlequin ladybird

Harlequin ladybird

A new ladybird has arrived in Britain . But not just any ladybird: this is the harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis, the most invasive ladybird on Earth.

The harlequin ladybird was introduced to North America in 1988, where it is now the most widespread ladybird species on the continent. It has already invaded much of of north-western Europe, and arrived in Britain in summer 2004.

There are 46 species of ladybird (Coccinellidae) resident in Britain and the recent arrival of the harlequin ladybird has the potential to jeopardise many of these. The Harlequin Ladybird Survey will monitor its spread across Britain and assess its impact on native ladybirds.

Monitoring ladybirds across the country has never been more important!

My lavender is just coming into flower and this always seems to attract more honey bees than I see on the raspberries so I am looking forward to watching these assuming that the weather improves enough for them to get out and forage this year!

I hope you have enjoyed reading the blog,  feel free to contact me with comments, suggestions or general feedback, click on the right column to subscribe and receive updates when I next have the time between chasing the bees to write again.

I can also be found at @danieljmarsh on twitter or British Beekeepers page on Facebook.

Dan

N.B. clicking on the images opens a higher resolution image in a new window.