Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Girls going good !

Well, just after leaving a message on someone else's blog about how it's a shame you can't really tell how the girls are doing in the hive during the winter, I discovered I could "look" inside the hive.

I went for a wander in the snow. It's a rare event in London and the thaw's started even before it's stopped snowing (it's been snowing lightly non-stop for past 6 hours here) and I wanted to get out and enjoy it. And I thought it was a great chance to go to my apiary and take some snaps of the hives.

I hope you enjoy the pictures (those of you in countries where it snows properly might laugh as London's poor attempt, but seriously this is not usual here). Here's Amidala hive with a small covering of the white stuff on the roof and landing board. More interesting is to examine the snow on the roof. Look! There's a clear "melting patch" in the middle. The ambient air temperature is probably 0 or -1 celcius, so the snow is prone to melting, and clearly the heat from the bee cluster in the centre of the hive is doing just that. Both Amidala and Boudica hives showed this melt pattern on top, so I left the site with a warm fuzzy feeling that the girls are alive and well.

The WBC hive you can see is not mine, but has been on the site for many years. It's just a stack of WBC "lifts" (no boxes inside) and in fact is full of tools. It looks pretty anyhow, especially in the snow.

I though I'd post some other snow pictures I took. The first is of a corylus contorta (twisted hazel) in my garden and the other just a bush full of berries in the street outside my house. All lovely looking in the snow.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Ted the Hoops - recommended book

I just finished reading Ted Hoopers "Guide to Bees and Honey". It's cover-boast is that it's "the world's best selling guide to beekeeping." I greatly enjoyed the book, and found it somewhat swift reading despite the way the facts, techniques and advice came thick and fast. It opens with a detailed look at bee anatomy, before moving on to many practical aspects of beekeeping. I'll definitely be keeping it for reference: the details of how to do an artificial swarm, and how to do a Bailey frame exchange are still just about with me, but some of the more intricate procedures of queen rearing and suchlike are tricky to retain in memory from one reading. I'd highly recommend the book. It's a book of "mainstream" beekeeping, though, with a definite focus on honey production and bee economics. For example, I didn't see a mention of a top-bar hive anywhere. This is probably just a product of its age and history: I read the latest/fourth edition which was first published in 1997. The author is a beekeeper from Essex (south-east England).
I'll need to ponder what I've read in this book as I move on in my beekeeping and try to progress from the "beginner" stage. It's obvious to me, though, that any amount of book reading and technical knowledge is likely to be of little use without a stack of practical, personal experience. I'm committed to keeping myself conscious of just how little of that experience I have, and to taking the time to speak with proper, grown-up beekeepers as opportunity allows.

Any book recommendations from readers would be greatfully received.

Hive naming - the decision

Well, one of my less important winter beekeeping tasks was to name my hives, since "hive1" and "hive2" just doesn't cut it. I'll use the names in my records and on this blog. I'll make no apology for saying I've decided to steal the idea of Simon, the nice man who works at RHS Wisley and has a decent size apiary there and calls each of his hives by the name of a famous queen. Also, I've decided to name my hives with sequential starting letters of the alphabet.
If colonies die, or queens change, or boxes get chopped and changed I'll just keep the names as they are, and in fact over time I suspect the name will actually be seen to apply to the roof where I stick it! Anyhow, with no more further ado, I name my hives Amidala and Boudica.

Back from New Zealand

Late last week, I got back from a 4 week trip to New Zealand. What a place! I'll spare the details since this is a bee blog, but suffice to say that my wife, the 4 kids and I had a superb time, and the campervan was an especial hit. What a place, though: so much to see and do! Beautiful, and it seemed stuffed full of nice people too. Anyhow, as we travelled through the land we often caught sight of many bee hives on land in view of the road. And what surprised me more was to see just how much manuka was in flower. I had supposed that the very high prices charged for manuka honey might be because the forage is rare (and perhaps globally it is) but we drove through many areas of New Zealand where the little white maunka flowers on their scrubby, gangly bushes just seemed to be everywhere. I bought some seeds to bring back with me for fun. I think I heard (can't remember where now) that someone in the UK is attempting to actually set up some proper plantation with the purpose of producing manuka honey over here. Googling it I found this link, and perhaps this is what I heard of (and it seems the plant has been in some places in the UK for quite a while).