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Archive for the ‘Bee Present’ Category

The Beehive Ark

I came across this amazing beehive design at a Woodfair recently.  Please find the full story of this unique design for a top-bar hive below the photograph with the designer’s contact details if you want more information:

My initial inspiration to create a curved hive was from the curved structure of honeycomb created in top-bar hives.
The design re-appropriates traditional clinker boat building techniques, and celebrates long-established craft practices in the UK; beekeeping and clinker boat building.

The beehive is created using overlapping strips of steam bent oak and chestnut. Chestnut was chosen for the roof and the base of the hive, as it is a species native to Sussex, and has good properties for use outside. The central part of the hive is made from white oak, which is traditionally used in clinker boat building.

The hive is about exploring and expanding the possibilities of existing designs to create an aesthetically satisfying and functional form, which could supplement a contemporary garden space.

Despite using unconventional techniques for making a beehive, I have ensured that the construction adheres to the basic principles in order for a top-bar hive to function effectively. A swarm shall be moved into the hive next spring, and as a continuation of the project, the bees will be documented living in it.

If you’d like to ask anything about the beehive, please contact at: kayleywillcocks(at)hotmail(dot)co(dot)uk

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What colors creatures see has long interested scientists, and aside from us, more is known about what colors bees see than any other living thing.  Like us, bees are trichromatic.  Whereas we base our color combinations on red, blue, and green, bees base all their colors on UV, blue , and green.  Just as color blind people do not see red or green, and therefore experience the world of color differently, bees also perceive the world in colors entirely different from ours.  Bees do not see red and have a hard time distinguishing it from surrounding green leaf backgrounds.  Bees that frequent red flowers are either perceive them in color they can see, or the red flower is not being lost against a green background.  Even though bees don’t see red, they can see other reddish wavelengths such as orange and yellow.

The light spectrum bees see is from 600 – 300 nm. The colors bees see are blue-green, blue, violet, and ultraviolet, with research showing our purple followed by our violet then our blue as their favorites. Mixing ultraviolet wavelengths with the wavelengths of colors they can and can’t see, gives bees a world of color different from our own.   If deprived of UV light, bees lose interest in foraging, and remain in the hive until forced out by severe food shortages.

Bees not only see flowers in different colors than we do, bees also see ultra-violet light patterns, invisible to us, at the center that are a different color than the rest of the flower.   From a bee’s-eye-view, the UV colors and patterns in a flower’s petals dramatically announce the flower’s stash of nectar and pollen.  These UV patterns serve as a landing zone, guiding the bees to the nectar source.

we see 
bees see
add in UV
red black uv purple
orange yellow/green*
yellow yellow/green* uv purple
green green
blue blue uv violet
violet blue uv blue
purple blue
white blue green
black black

*even the experts don’t agree as to what colour the bee sees!

Below is a fantastic link of photographs of flowers taken with Ultraviolet filters showing the landing patterns and flouresence.
The color of these uv flowers is dependant on the filter used by the photographer, and is not the color perceived by the bee.
Here is a picture of Arnica angustifolia Vahl as a human might see it:
And here is a picture of the same flower as a bee might see it – with an ultraviolet “bullseye” pattern to attract the bee:

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The following animation takes my vote for the best animated bee movie ever:

Here is some background on Dot’s story (running away from her world as it is being destroyed – and saved by a bee!).

It also gives some great insights into the world’s smallest film (even though it is a subtle advert for Nokia mobile phones) and brings together cutting-edge medical technology with 3D printing. Totally awesome!

Vote for it on the Webby Awards here!

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CLICK HERE or on the photo below to sign the petition to save bees and our crops and send this link to everyone you know!

Quietly, globally, billions of bees are dying, threatening our crops and food. But a global ban of one group of pesticides could save bees from extinction.

Four European countries have begun banning these poisons, and some bee populations are recovering. But chemical companies are lobbying hard to keep all killer pesticides on the market. A global outcry now for a ban in the US and EU, where debate is raging, could provoke a total ban and a ripple effect around the world.

Let’s build a giant global buzz calling for these dangerous chemicals to be outlawed in the US and EU until and unless they are proved to be safe.

CLICK HERE to Sign the petition to save bees and our crops and send this to everyone.

More at: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/call-to-ban-pesticides-linked-to-bee-deaths-2190321.html

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I just love stories that show that the world of bees is unexplainable, beyond individual intelligence and that even to the most brainiest of scientists can’t explain how they do it!

Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London and Royal Holloway, University of London have discovered that bees learn to fly the shortest possible route between flowers even if they discover the flowers in a different order. Bees are effectively solving the ‘Travelling Salesman Problem’, and these are the first animals found to do this.


The Travelling Salesman must find the shortest route that allows him to visit all locations on his route. Computers solve it by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the shortest. However, bees solve it without computer assistance using a brain the size of grass seed. […]

Co-author and Queen Mary colleague, Dr. Mathieu Lihoreau adds: “There is a common perception that smaller brains constrain animals to be simple reflex machines. But our work with bees shows advanced cognitive capacities with very limited neuron numbers. There is an urgent need to understand the neuronal hardware underpinning animal intelligence, and relatively simple nervous systems such as those of insects make this mystery more tractable.

So long as scientists only think of bees as individual insects, they will continue to miss the point.  Same for the planet really.  So long as governments continue to see us as individuals, they will also miss the point.  Time for more research into swarm intelligence and the subtle energies that allow colonies to survive and prosper.

Story from: http://technoccult.net/archives/2010/10/27/bees-can-solve-the-travelling-salesman-problem/

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With the first two weeks on holiday, the bees had to wait until last weekend before I removed the honey.  We took four full supers – which will produce a good crop – though I have not extracted it yet. Planning on that next weekend.

I always leave a super on each hive to over-winter.  Some beekeepers think this is a waste of good honey – but I think that the bees will be more healthy if they eat their own honey rather than sugar substitute.

Whilst inspecting the hives I took my notebook out of the toolbox to find it had been leaked on by some water – and all of this seasons records were literally dissolved.  Quite extraordinary!  So my records are now my rusty old memory and the odd blog entry.  A lesson there somewhere – perhaps use indelible ink or something?

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It is a while since I last wrote a post.  Life has been a bit hectic.  I was expecting it to have been even more hectic as we are half-way through the swarming season, but I have only collected one swarm so far this year.  The rest of this post is about that swarm.

A few days ago I received that pleasant call at about 16.00 from someone in the local town to say that he had just seen a swarm of bees land in his back garden.  I had received about eight calls so far this year, but for one reason and another, I was not able to pick the bees up.  So I was determined to get this one.  In any case, I have two people in our area that wanted to start beekeeping – and who had no bees – so there was even more pressure on me to collect.  The swarm was right at the top of a pear tree – about 10-12 ft up, but the owner only had a 6ft ladder.  So here, I though was a chance to try out my new pole catching contraption which I had designed after the only swarm that I did not catch successfully last year (it was about 16ft in the air – though on the call, the woman had told me it was only about 8ft.  Height off the ground and accessibility are two really important issues when catching swarms!

Anyway, I went to the house.  It was a beautiful summer’s evening.  I made up a very “Heath Robinson” contraption from string, duck tape all on the nucleus box I use which was then hooked onto the end of a long yellow heavy-duty extension pole that painters use for painting high ceilings.  It worked a treat!   Here is a picture of it:

In one movement I swung the box up on top of the tree, pretty much right on top of the swarm.  I then secured the handle of the pole to the top of the step ladder with some more duck tape so that the pole stayed in position until it was time to swing the box back down to the ground.

I then went shopping for about an hour and waited for the bees to climb up into the box.  When I returned, most of them were in.  With a little smoke, the rest went in over about 15 minutes.  I then took the pole and lifted the box off the top of the tree.  It was much heavier!  I swung the box back to the ground and placed it on the step ladder to encourage the rest of the flying bees into the box.  Overall it was a great success.  The swarm was housed in my garage overnight before deciding who to give them to.

The next morning I rang the prison.  They were delighted.  It was only the day before had they been saying they wished to have some bees.  So I went over there with Andrew to put them in their new home.  Since our first site visit, (where we had found the old place where the vodka bees were kept), the prison staff had decided to move the site for the new apiary into the prison gardens – behind the wire.  So that is where we put the bees.  It took about an hour and I gave a short lesson at the same time.  Mick, the prison groundsman was thrilled.  The bees had finally returned to the prison.

As I left through the main gate, I joked at the guard that he now had about 30,000 new inmates, that none of them had names or passports and that quite a few were already breaking-out through the fence!  He laughed.  Little did I know how true my analysis was.

It was only yesterday did I ring Mick to find out how they were getting on.  I wanted to offer him some help on his first inspection.  He was quite low in spirit.  He had gone into the hive on Monday and only found about 100 bees in it – though they had drawn-out quite a lot of comb.  Last Saturday was a VERY warm day and I can only think that they had become uncomfortable in their new hive and found a better location.  So the swarm really had escaped.

So it is back to the drawing-board.  We must find a location where the bees want to be.  I am in favour of the old site (bees naturally seem to come back to where they have been before.  We shall have to see.  One thing for sure, though is that bees don’t like being kept prisoner.  They will definitely buzz-off if you don’t give them a good spot to make their home!  In this case, I think the site was a little exposed and possibly quite uncomfortable in the direct sunlight at about 11.00 am in the morning.  We live and learn!

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