Wednesday, April 22, 2009

No bees Allowed

I am looking for some space to put my bees in out in Dublin 15. My garden is tiny is surrounded by children and is also home of the worlds boldest dog

so its not suitable

So I asked the local allotments if they might have space. Turns out no because
"Unfortunately, our strict rules are no livestock of any kind allowed on the allotments, and it would not be right for us to make exception for you. However, I would be more than happy to give you some ground in a field beside the allotments,"

Grand stuff but then the follow up mail says this

"there are some issues with regard to having bees near members of the public. Allergies, the risk of getting stung, etc. Unfortunately, for that reason we cannot accomodate you"

Any garden will attract bees. Any garden has to attract bee to stay healthy. The widespread losses of our wild bee population means that they cannot be relied upon for pollination. How can you have allotments without bees? The wild Irish population has been decimated by varroa mites so relying on them for pollination is risky. If your not relying on wild bees but on local beekeepers that seems like a weird hybrid of NIMBYism and irrationality. The logic seems to be something like 'We need bees and need them in the allotments just don't want them near the allotments'.

How much risk are bees to public safety? Surely if your allergic to bees you do not take up gardening. I'm allergic to shark bites so I don't stick my head in their mouths. How can you ban something for safety reasons when it is vital for the activity. It is not like the beehive was in the middle of the allotments either but in a nearby field.

The allotment guy is being really nice and all so I'm not going to go be mad at him but can you think of a good way of persuading people that bees are neccessary?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Don't stand in front of a beehive

It is not up there with don't eat yellow snow but its still good advice. Returning bees don't expect you to be there. So they tend to form in groups on your back. Seeing as they are at about 30 degrees a carpet of the fellas can warm you up a bit.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Marking the Queen

You want to mark the queen bee so you can find her quickly if you need her replace her. Bees are very sensitive to temperature so its a bad idea to stand around for ages with their house open up. Marking her means that you probably wont have to spend ages searching for her should the need to replace her arise.

Find the lady. Finding a slightly larger queen amongst 30000 of her daughters while she tries to hide from the light can be tough.

Queens release pheremones (and queen substance) that signal her authority and generally keep the rest of the hive in line. These she secretes and produces from her mouth parts. Should these run low due to old age or various other reasons the hive stops being a well coordinated superorganism and turns into something like King Lear but with 30000 ungrateful daughters. Replacing her can stop this rebellion that can cause many of your bees to leave in a swarm.

Capturing the queen

Handling the queen can cause your odors to rub off on her. Then when she is added back to the colony she may not be recognised. This causes something similar to an immune response in the superorganism. If you later the odor of the queen badly she can be murdered by the colony. To avoid this some experiments with using gloves are taking place.
In this case the gloves are odorless polythene similar to the ones used at sandwich counters. Unfortunately they are too baggy and so John said he would not use them again.
The queen is having her wings clipped here. Occasionally the when the queen is not producing enough queen substance to keep the colony from rebelling she will attempt to flee with some of the hive. If this happens you can lose half of your hive. If she does leave with clipped her wings shell fall to the ground and those bees who were leaving with her should head back to the hive. Dealing with swarming is a large area.

Marking the queen with a special low odor marker.

The queen is kept separate from the hive while the marker dries and the smell wears off. She hides from and dislikes light so the box was turned over after this photo was taken.
What happens to the queen if she has the wrong or not enough odor to stop the hive rebelling? A grisly regicidal spectacle called "balling the queen". Her daughters gang up on her entombing her in a ball of their bodies that smothers and boils her to death. It is a good expression I'm not sure why its not more widely used.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fingal Beekeeping Course

The Fingal North Beekeepers Association run a beginning beekeeping course in Spring. It consists of six nights Tuesday and a demonstration on a Saturday.

The course includes Ted Hoopers 'guide to bees and honey'. Has extensive handouts and covers bee zoology, diseases, hive manipulation, honey appreciation, swarm avoidance and loads more. The cost is so low that it probably does not cover the rent of the room.

I am amazed and thankful for the amount of effort the Fingal beekeepers put into educating and encouraging beginning beekeepers.

I have more photos of the demonstration here. I will describe the demonstration in a later post.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Nettle Beer: Even slugs hate you

A night outside and the nettle beer failed to tempt even one slug.

I left vodka mixed with skittles out for half an hour a while ago and this was the result.

That is how bad this drink was skittle cheapo vodka was infinetely more attractive to dipsomaniac invertebrates then it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Nettle Beer 2

I made 1 liter with a modified version of a recipe from this book. To make 4 liters you need

1 kilo nettle tips.
10 grams ginger
Danstar Windsor yeast
2 lemons
800 grams sugar
200 grams honey
4 liters of water

Pick the tops of good clean nettles then rinse them. If you get dragged through the nettles by your dog make sure to keep your dignity.

Simmer the nettles for half an hour with the lemon juice and the ginger. I strained off the liquid from the nettles. When this strained off water starts cooling you can add the sugar but I left the honey till the water was at about 60 celsius.

Add the yeast when the water is at about 20 degrees as any warmer and you risk killing the yeast. Well when I give this recipe of things to do, you would be better off if you did not bother.

After a week I gave it a go. The odour my wife kindly described as "smelling like death". The taste was not that bad but I would not recommend it. If you know how to fix the recipe please tell me in the comments.

In fact I've used it to bait the garden in an attempt to kill off the slugs that plague my life. I have checked before and slugs show no preference for different beers. So hopefully they get rid of this crap for me.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bamboo Bee House

I just got this in Sainsbury's. I can find some similar products on the interweb here. There is a good description of similar houses here. I'm not quite sure if any of the Irish species of beers are suitable for this house and most solitary bees I see are a lot bigger then the holes in the bamboo.

So Im going to hang a hanging basket bracket off the shed tomorrow. And hang this up off it. What should I bait the bamboo with? I have propolis, beer and I reckon I can find Citral and Geroniol.