Posts Tagged ‘pollinator’

Down at the apiary – June 2016


I haven’t been that active with the blog this year but the bees have more than made up for my lack of activity.

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Back in December we took the chainsaws into the woods on the land where the apiary is located and cut a new clearing, then moved the bees during the only short cold spell we experienced and it even snowed on the day of the move which at least kept the girls in the hives! Hopefully this will now be a place that they can stay for the next few years surrounded by flowering trees, wild flower meadows,  hedgerows and an RSPB nature reserve which is being returned to heather and gorse.

The warm winter didn’t really see an end to the bees flying and being active in the hives. I treated with oxalic acid at the end of December once we had moved the hives then started to feed bee candy which I do every year as a form of insurance. When I checked the hives in February all was fine but at the next check in March I saw that one colony had died from isolation starvation despite having candy sitting on the frames right above them. This is the second time that I have experienced this in 7 years of beekeeping but it still brings great sadness when you open a hive to find it dead inside with the last bees left head first in the cells trying to find food.

The four remaining colonies expanded fast and two were ready to be artificially swarmed by early May. I carried out the splits easily enough as this is a routine operation in any beekeepers year but subsequent checks saw both swarmed colonies rapidly establish themselves , drawing out new comb only to swarm again leaving new queen cells behind a few weeks later.

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I’ve also been joined by a new helper this year as my 6 great old daughter expressed an interest in coming to see the bees. We were able to buy her a small lightweight suit from ‘Simon the beekeeper’ online which should give her a few years use and she has been helping out every since. To be honest I expected her to be a bit afraid when she first met the ladies but she has shown no fear and just wants to get stuck in despite being covered in bees most of the time…
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Today we have been checking on the swarm hives together to make sure that the new queens have hatched, had successful mating flights and are producing new workers. We found a few and marked them as we went…
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We then checked on the hives that seem to have passed through May without threat of swarming only to find that they have been busy making preparations in the last few days so once again we quickly split the hives and will wait to see what comes over the next few weeks.
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I hope you enjoy sharing my beekeeping journey with me, please feel free to comment or share.

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

More bumblebee observations….


Bombus Hypnorum -

Bombus Hypnorum – feeding on late raspberry flowers

Following on from my recent post about the Bumblebees in my garden I have continued to enjoy watching the bees tumbling all over the raspberry flowers, but now that these seem to be mainly set as fruit and there is slightly less activity going on around the patch.

However the bees haven’t left the garden but seem to have turned their attention to the leaves on my cherry tree. There seems to be a frenzy of bee activity, mainly in the early evening, so I have been having a closer look (and a few photos of course) as this behaviour all seems very strange as there are not actually any flowers here for them to feed on…

Bombus Vestalis -

Bombus Vestalis – entering the ‘rolled’ leaves on the cherry tree

It appears that as we have now effectively reached what beekeepers refer to as the ‘June gap’, this is the time between the end of the spring flowers and the arrival of the summer flowers, when there is less natural forage for bees of any kind to feed on. In an absence of sweet nectar from flowers the bees appear to have taken to ‘milking’ the sugary secretion from the aphids that have ‘attacked’ the underside of the youngest leaves at the end of the branches on my cherry tree.

According to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BCT) this behaviour appears to be becoming increasingly common.

“The secretions offer a substitute for nectar, but do not contain the protein the insects need to stay healthy. Bumblebees can only get their protein from pollen, which they feed to their growing young, so it is essential for a healthy population.”

The bumblebees’ behaviour of feeding on secretions from aphids could be a further sign of the problems facing the insects.

There have been warnings that bumblebee and wild bee populations around the UK are experiencing “catastrophic declines”.

Bombus Vestalis - feeding on aphids in young cherry tree leaves

Bombus Vestalis – Proboscis elongated and feeding on the aphids on the underside of cherry leaves

Possibly of even greater concern  is that many trees are sprayed with pesticides to kill off the aphids and this will have a knock-on effect of killing the bumblebees at a time when they are already considered to be under threat and in decline across the UK.

There were recent reports of mass wipeouts with 25,000 bees killed in the US following the application of a pesticide to control aphids and this could be happening all over the world – a very sad thought indeed….

Bombus Vestalis -

Bombus Vestalis feeding on sugary secretions – you can see a few aphids on the outside of the leave but the inside is completely coated in them

It’s not all doom and gloom though as the UK government have finally appeared to have woken up the problems with our wild pollinators (after recently trying to block a 2-year EU ban on the use of three of the most damaging neonicotinoids) and are launching an ‘urgent’ review and plans to  to introduce a national pollinator strategy. I hope this is not just political point scoring and some very urgent action is taken before we have lost these essential and beautiful insects and experience the knock on effects on both our economy and food production.

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.