I’ve been a beekeeper for nearly 20 years, and I’ve never experienced such losses as I have this winter. At the end of the 2022 season, I had four healthy hives, but now I have only one – called “TRUTH”. Two of my strongest hives – JUBILEE (which was named in the Jubilee year of 2012 and flourished last year), and GRACE (which had been a very strong hive for the past three years) suddenly died off between February and March.

It’s been very disheartening to see my bees struggling to get through the winter and even more discouraging to hear about the losses experienced by other beekeepers. A friend of mine who has kept bees for 20 years and maintains over 100 hives lost half of his hives this winter and had 18 hives vandalised.

The loss of so many hives is devastating, not only for the beekeepers but also for the environment. I put it down to a very frosty, cold and wet winter and spring. I suppose it’s climate change in action. Whatever the reasons, it is making me do a radical re-think of how I can maintain and grow my colonies of bees in future years. I have to re-learn to split my remaining hive into two to ensure I have the resilience of two hives – a fundamental principle of small-scale beekeeping. Let’s hope the weather starts to get warmer and dryer in the next few months.


The Flower Moon

I’ve decided to post daily for a year (or more) on things that inspire me.

Today is the first day.

I’ve been very affected by the moon in the past few days with the FULL  FLOWER MOON. There was also an eclipse apparently – but I missed that.

So, to get a subject for my first inspiring post, I decided to go into the garden to find a flower and after a few that were closed for the night, I came across a Geum (also Avens). It was perfect. The right colour and still out in all its glory.

As I held the delicate stem in my left hand and prepared to take the picture on my iPhone with my right hand, MAGIC HAPPENED!

At that very moment, a honey bee landed on the exact flowerhead I was filming!

I took the shot and it immediately buzzed off.

Why she wasn’t back in her nest, I will never know, save that I’m sure she was encouraging me in my quest.

So starts Day 1 in a truly magical way!

The flower Avens (or Geum) signifies Exorcism, Purification and Love, by the way.

I birthed a new hive this year and named it LOVE – not quite sure why at the time – but it felt right.

Now I know why.

Everything is connected!


Australian Beehives on Fire

Large parts of South and East Australia have been ravaged by wildfires. The destruction of natural habitats has great impact for Australian beekeepers who produce 70-80% of their honey from forests.

There is some positive news: hive losses were minimised by the fast work of beekeepers who moved ahead of the fires and shifted bees outside of harm’s way.

People such as our friends at Beechworth Honey have helped beekeepers relocate hives to safe areas, away from fire risk. Beechworth is supporting Australia’s registered charity for bees, the Wheen Bee Foundation, and you can donate to their Bee Rebuild & Recovery Fund. (Photo Paul Valkenburg)


(Extracted from Bees for Development Newsletter) February 2020

Many animals understand numbers at a basic level for use in essential tasks such as foraging, shoaling, and resource management. However, complex arithmetic operations, such as addition and subtraction, using symbols and/or labelling have only been demonstrated in a limited number of nonhuman vertebrates.

Honeybees have a miniature brain with less than 1 million neurons – compared to humans with over 80 billion.  New research (see below) shows that honeybees can learn to use blue and yellow as symbolic representations for addition or subtraction. In a free-flying environment, individual bees use this information to solve unfamiliar problems involving adding or subtracting one element from a group of elements.

This ability requires bees to acquire long-term rules and use short-term working memory. Given that honeybees and humans are separated by over 400 million years of evolution, the findings suggest that advanced numerical cognition may be more accessible to nonhuman animals than previously suspected.

And that humans and honeybees might well share a common ancestor from 600 million years ago that was just as smart!

From: “Numerical cognition in honeybees enables addition and subtraction”



On 28th September, I gave a talk to the London Dowsers.

It was the first opportunity to present the results of my efforts to replicate the amazing work done by John Harding who first introduced himself to me through this blog several years ago.

The content might be seen as some to be a bit “woo-woo” or unscientific.  However, in my experience, the honeybee is here to be a guide for us to show us the “space between” and there are plenty of stories in the video that illustrate the point.

You can watch a screencast of the lecture if you click on the video below:

There are many collective nouns for a group of bees:

  • bike of bees
  • charm of bees
  • cluster of bees
  • an erst of bees
  • game of bees
  • grist of bees
  • hive of bees
  • hum of bees
  • nest of bees
  • rabble of bees
  • swarm of bees

Source: https://socratic.org/questions/what-is-a-collective-noun-for-bees

Which one do readers like/prefer?  I love the “charm of bees” – for that is what they are!

However, my favourite collective noun remains a “congregation of drones” – as in a Drone Congregation Area.

I found this analysis of Drone Congregation Areas (DCAs) from a study done on Puerto Rico:


The conclusions are confusing and inconclusive and the way that the drones find the same sites year-after-year is still an area of study that is fascinating for me.

We took a late harvest this year.  With eight hives up and a very late summer, we have left quite a bit of honey on the hives.

It has been a lovely “Indian summer’ here in the UK – but the Autumn leaves are now turning and the cold is setting in.

We had success creating three new hives from three Buckfast queens sent in the post from Scotland.  It will be interesting to see if we can get all the hives through the winter.

Interested to know if anyone has any ideas on creative ways to use the propolis that ends up being dregs of honey and wax extraction.

Here’s to a mild winter!



Samson’s Riddle

Samson’s riddle is a riddle that appears in the biblical narrative about Samson.

Samson posed the riddle to his thirty Philistine guests, in these words: “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet” (Judges 14:14).

Samson S

Samson slaying the lion by Dore

The riddle was based on a private experience of Samson, who killed a lion and after a while found bees and honey in its corpse.

(It is very interesting that there are other ancient references to bees taking up home in the dead carcasses of bulls and horses.  Perhaps the cavity and protection from nature provided an ideal home in areas where there were not so many trees or crevices?)

The Philistines, who could not solve the riddle, blackmailed the answer from Samson’s wife, who persuaded Samson to tell it to her.

“What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” (Judges 14:18) is the answer to the riddle.

Most of text from: Wikipedia

‘Your Lord inspired the bee, saying: “Make your homes in the mountains, in the trees, and in the hives which men shall build for you.  Feed on every kind of fruit, and follow the trodden paths of your Lord.”  From its belly comes forth a syrup of different hues, a cure for men.  Surely in this there is a sign for those who would take thought.’

From the Quran, The Bee, 16:68

The Song of the Swarm

“Perhaps the one stage in bee-keeping that requires the least protection and minimum of courage is “swarm catching” – that is, taking natural swarms after they have alighted in a cluster on a bush or other object they have chosen for the purpose.  To me, it is one of the most interesting sights in Nature to watch a swarm leaving the parent stock, rising on the wing, and performing beautiful, mazy evolutions like a country dance mid-air, to the accompaniment of a soft, melodious, gentle hum, so indicative of peace, goodwill, and enjoyment at the prospect of establishing a successful home of their own; the main body keeping up these beautiful movements whilst the scouts are flying hither and thither in search of a suitable spot on which to alight; and then to see them hasten to a bush in thousands, and threading in and out amongst foliage, and now here, and there, until the scouts trumpet forth the call to assemble.  I have never yet discovered that call, but it must be well known to the bees; for when the spot on which to alight is found, and the call is made, you will see all the bees that are on the wing head towards it, even those that form the most distant circle.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 11.07.49

When the place of assemblage is found, what a change takes place in their song! from the gentle, peaceful hum to one of ecstatic delight.  Note again, if the bees have made up their mind to go farther afield to form a new home, there will be a change in their movements and their song.  Instead of making easy, graceful movements to and fro. the whole swarm will become agitated, the scouts will be called in, and their song becomes one of great disappointment, not to them, but to you, when you see your cherished hope rising in the air like a solid mass, and with a sharp cry and rapid movement they make for – you know not where.  “But,” you say, ” I was given to understand that bees were always led by the queen – that she gave the call, and directed their movements; – is not that why  they beat the tom-tom or ring the frying-pan with the door key?”  Not a bit of it.  That is an old superstition, grown out of a custom declaring the ownership of a swarm of bees when on the wing.  It was equal to the ringing of a bell and saying, “This is to give notice these bees belong to me.”  I have more than once seen the queen on a leaf some feed from where the swarm was clustering.  I have seen her parading to and fro on a rail while the swarm was clustering on the post, the bees paying not the slightest attention to her.  At other times I have seen her alight on the cluster and burrow in amongst them.  Evidently she has been on the wing for some time after the main body had settled.”

From: Australian Beelore and Bee Culture by Albert Gale (Late Bee Expert and Lecturer on Apiculture to the New South Wales Government).  Published in 1912.  Extracted from: Chapter XV – Swarm Catching, Hiving and Transferring pp,86-89