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Archive for the ‘Beekeeping’ Category

“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.

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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

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A revolutionary new beehive called the FLOWhive is launching this week on Kickstarter. It apparently harvests honey in a very innovative way and is set to revolutionise beekeeping and honey harvesting worldwide.  If it works the way the marketing video says, then it could save hours of manual labour taking the supers off hives and extracting honey with all the mess it brings with it. The project goes live on Indigogo in the next few days.  I’m definitely going to look out and see what these guys are offering!

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Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a major threat to bee colonies around the world and affects their ability to perform vital human food crop pollination. It has been a cause of urgent concern for scientists and farmers around the world for at least a decade but a specific cause for the phenomenon has yet to be conclusively identified.

Bees usually begin foraging when they are 2-3 weeks old but when bee colonies are stressed by disease, a lack of food, or other factors that kill off older bees, the younger bees start foraging at a younger age.

Researchers attached radio trackers to thousands of bees and tracked their movement throughout their lives. They found that bees that started foraging younger completed less foraging flights than others and were more likely to die on their first flights.

The researchers, from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), Macquarie University in Sydney, Washington University in St Louis, and University of Sydney, used this information to model the impact on honey bee colonies.

They found that any stress leading to chronic forager death of the normally older bees led to an increasingly young foraging force. This younger foraging population lead to poorer performance and quicker deaths of foragers and dramatically accelerated the decline of the colony much like observations of CCD seen around the world.

Dr Clint Perry from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at QMUL, said:

“Young bees leaving the hive early is likely to be an adaptive behaviour to a reduction in the number of older foraging bees. But if the increased death rate continues for too long or the hive isn’t big enough to withstand it in the short term, this natural response could upset the societal balance of the colony and have catastrophic consequences.

“Our results suggest that tracking when bees begin to forage may be a good indicator of the overall health of a hive. Our work sheds light on the reasons behind colony collapse and could help in the search for ways of preventing colony collapse.”

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Like many beekeepers in the UK, 2014 turned out to be a very good season for honey.  With a very wet start to the year, we had a near-ideal spring and summer.

Having a previous record of 150 lbs in previous years, this year we managed to take off 250 lbs form 4 hives.  I’m sure other beekeepers have achieved more productivity per hive – but for us, it was a great year.

At the start of 2013 I took the advice from a seasoned beekeeper who posted on this site.  He told me to use TWO National brood chambers per hive – not one.  Having spent several seasons frustrated that the brood took at least one brood chamber and one super-as-brood chamber, I experimented in 2013.  The system worked well.  So in 2014, I gave each of my established hives the extra space.  Combined with the fact that the hives recovered much more strongly after swarming, I can’t understand why

Faith (the first hive I ever installed) continues strongly having re-queened a number of times – and lives up to her name.  She produced the best crop of honey with four supers (not all full).  The more observant will see an additional concrete block on the top of the hive.  I had problems with badgers tipping some of our hives over a few years back.  The weight of the block on top of the hive seems to have stopped this particular problem.

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Faith, with two brood chambers, ready for over-wintering.

I will write more about the other five hives in future posts.

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An Australian supplier of Mediterranean and Turkish food products has been stung with a $30,600 fine for misrepresenting its “Victoria Honey” product, which is neither derived from bees nor made in Victoria.

The ACCC found Melbourne-based distributor Basfoods to have made misrepresentations on its product labelling and its website that suggested its “Victoria Honey” was produced by honey bees, when it was mainly comprised of sugars from plants including corn and sugar cane.

The watchdog also considered by naming and labelling its product “Victoria Honey”, Basfoods had represented the product as originating from Victoria, Australia when in fact it was a product of Turkey.

The product was supplied to independent supermarkets, speciality retailers, online stores, delis, restaurants and cafes across Australia, as well as through Basfood’s retail stores and via its website.

More at: http://www.smartcompany.com.au/legal/42519-aussie-supplier-stung-with-30-000-fine-for-honey-not-made-from-bees.html?utm_source=SmartCompany&utm_campaign=125c1cda85-Thursday_19_June_201419_06_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_234118efee-125c1cda85-93822749

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We caught the first swarm of the season on Monday night.  It was 18ft up in a bush – and I had to use an extension to my long pole (used for painting) to get the box up there.  Luckily Dennis (whose garden it was) had an additional 3 poles which I used to extend my pole as well as get the smoker up there!

The photo looks as though I am trying to catch the sun!

Having inspected the hives on Saturday, Faith is still very weak and I somehow doubt will come through as I have now tried to re-queen her twice.  We therefore decided to call this swarm “Hope” to keep the spirit of our three first hives – Faith, Hope and Charity.  The original Hope and Charity died off in 2005, but Faith has kept going since then.  Oh – and it was luck that the place that we caught the hive in started with an H – so we stuck to the Bee Law of naming the hives from the first letter of the place that they were caught!

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A third of UK bee colonies have been lost over the last two years and there have been many explanations given for this. There is strong evidence that neonicotinoids – a class of pesticide first used in agriculture in the mid 1990s at exactly the time when mass bee disappearances started occurring – are involved in the deaths. The evidence against these chemicals is strong enough that they have been banned or suspended in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia – but not yet in the UK.
Neonicotinoids work as an insecticide by blocking specific neural pathways in insects’ central nervous systems. The chemicals impair bees’ communication, homing and foraging ability, flight activity, ability to discriminate by smell, learning, and immune systems – all of which have an impact on bees’ ability to survive. 

It seems bees genetic make up makes them particularly vulnerable to neonicotinoids. Recent mapping of the bee genome has revealed that bees’ capacity to detoxify chemicals is much lower than other insects. Instead bees have two strategies to protect themselves. On the first day of foraging in a new area, scout bees are sent out first to taste the nectar and pollens – if any are adversely affected they will be expelled from the hive immediately, and the colony will avoid the area.

In addition, once foraging begins, nurse bees in the hive clean foragers each time they return. These strategies protect the colony from mass exposure to lethal doses of chemicals, but they do leave honey bees particularly susceptible to sub-lethal exposures to any contaminants they encounter.

The other really important factor is the complex behaviour of honeybee colonies. For example, the 10,000 forager bees in a typical hive need to co-ordinate their quest for nectar – and they do this through the famed ‘waggle dance’, which communicates the flight direction and distance to sources of nectar. The complexity and precision of these dances is breathtaking, and success relies on the integrity of a nervous system where each synapse is crucial. It is no surprise then that honey bees have been shown to have a higher number of neurological receptors than other insects.

Honey bees live and work as a colony, not as individuals; what seems to be happening is that the cumulative impact of small doses of nenoicotinoids on thousands of bees over time is affecting individual bee’s ability to work and communicate effectively as part of a colony. Because lots of bees in each colony are behaving sub-optimally this can lead to the sudden, and devastating, outcomes that we’ve been witnessing in recent years.

The Soil Association believes that there is already enough evidence to justify an immediate ban on neonicotinoids today.

Article from The Soil Association <HERE> – with addition PDF Download: Bee briefing: The evidence that neonicotinoids are implicated in colony collapse disorder in honey bees, and should be banned in the UK

Picture below from: http://www.cbgnetwork.org/2821.html

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