Browsing Posts published on 07/04/2013

Bees and trees. 07/04/13

Again today, it dawned bright and comparatively warm.  Well, I say comparatively warm, it’s certainly at least a couple of degrees down on where we should be for this time of year, but given the recent lousy weather, we’re pretty happy with this.

And most of our bees were happy too, today. The centre hive was very busy, while the ‘nuc’ was pretty active, and watching for a while, I noticed quite a few of the foragers coming back with ‘trousers’ full of bright yellow pollen.  As I’ve previously said, this means that both the queens are in there, and they’re both doing their job -laying the next generation of workers.

As I mentioned earlier, the far hive nearest Gary was as dead as a dead thing.  Yes, there were a few bees about, hanging around the entrance, but they looked dazed and sluggish, and there was certainly no foraging happening.  This means we’ve almost certainly lost the queen in that hive, but by all reports, having two out of the three still alive is pretty good for this year, so we can’t complain.Pear tree with a haircut!

Ian (no relation) texted me this morning, suggesting that we come out to ‘play’ for just a couple of hours, and as I needed to check on the bees anyway, it gave me the perfect excuse to get my ‘fun’ clothes on and trot over there.

As I arrived, Ian had started to get the tea makings out of the top shed, so I quickly got the Kelly Kettle lit for the first cuppa.

Ian today decided that he would finish off his work in the orchard, pruning back all the detritus and bad wood from our fruit trees.  This shot to the right shows one of the two plum trees after its haircut, and we agreed that there is a much better chance of actually getting some plums from this tree this year.

Gary soon arrived to tend to his chickens, then Matt, who’d come down to plant mini-pop sweetcorn.

Ian had brought down some apple strudel that wasn’t eaten yesterday, so we ate that, of course, washed down with copious amounts of tea, then carried on with our jobs for the day.

As Ian was about finishing with the orchard, I had a sudden rush of blood to the head and decided that the overgrown, and overhanging, holly that scratched you every time you went from our main plot to the orchard just had to be cut back.

Well, Ian and I attacked this with some gusto!Holly cut back

We cut some pretty hefty branches from the main tree, and as you can see from the shot to the left, while we’ve cut it back considerably, there’s still plenty to grow, and in a few months, it’ll still provide food for the bees nearby.

All too soon it was time to go.  Gary had loads to do on his plot, Matt was busy planting the mini-pops, and Ian and I had other stuff to do back at our respective places.

Anyway, there’ll be more fun and frolics from our Plots on Wednesday, so I’ll chat with you then, Dear Reader!

Not so good.

Jon and I have been feeding our bees through all this awful weather with a mixture of heavy sugar syrup, and last time he visited, Charles put a block of nectar and pollen mix over the far one nearest Gary’s plot.

It was this hive that we’ve been most worried about, and yesterday things kind of came to a head when we saw that while the middle hive was very busy, with workers bringing in loads of nectar and pollen on their back legs -as sure sign the queen is healthy and laying, this far one was the complete opposite.

Absolutely nothing happening.Our youngest beekeeper at a safe distance!

We got suited up, and young Adam, who’d come down with his parents Barry and Sairah was keen to see too, so we got him suited up, and warned him that things could get a little hairy, and should they get out of control, then he should run!

In the end, there was no need to have worried, because in this hive, it was as quiet as a morgue.

Starting at the top, Jon and I lifted off the various boxes, seeing millions of dead bees, crammed into every corner of the hive.Sudden hive collapse?

When we got to the bottom plate, we could see why.

What you can see in this sad photo to the left is the bottom cover of the hive, absolutely rammed with dead bees, four, or even five-deep, completely blocking the bottom of the hive, the air vents, and more importantly, the hive entrance.

Now, we saw a very small cluster of live bees in the middle of the main brood box, so we’re hoping that in amongst them was the queen, and that by today, they’ll have realised that everything has been cleared out, and that she’ll be laying again.

We appreciate, this is a big ask, and I’ll be sure to let you know on my return this afternoon.

Funnily enough, many beekeepers in Sheffield and the surrounding areas have been seeing the same thing -an apparently busy, healthy hive, suddenly ‘shutting down’.

Currently speculation is that it is a combination of the exceptional weather we’ve been experiencing, and also there has been some suggestion that pesticides could have something to do with this.

The BBC News website the other day reported in its ‘Science & Environment‘ section that researchers have proved that bees exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides seem to lose their sense of direction and their ability to remember just where the best foraging is.  As these bees are meant to do the famous ‘waggle dance’ to tell their compatriots this information, it means the hive is essentially blind.  They don’t know -they can’t remember! where the pollen and nectar are!

But hey, of course, the massive drug companies who make these awful chemicals aren’t to blame, are they?

Obviously not!

…And our alleged ‘MP’s’ seem powerless to stop these vast multinationals producing these toxins.

After all, they’ve got to make a profit, eh?

Of course, who do you think is sat on the boards of these vast multinationals, with non-executive positions, yet collecting huge salaries?

Ah.  Right.

That’ll be these same MP’s, will it?

I’m sorry for the late arrival of this little piece, but last night as I got in, I just had to work on the iButton -so I did that, and blogged about it accordingly.

The weathermen had been promising a fine and bright day for yesterday, and they weren’t wrong.

In truth, it was probably the warmest and brightest day of the year so far, and down at LEAF we were blessed by many volunteers who took the opportunity to get out and get some fresh air in their lungs.

Gary carried on digging over the beds that in a few weeks will have masses of different types of runner beans in, while I tended our ‘best friend’, Kelly the Kettle. Ian (no relation), meanwhile, had plans for the orchard.

Now Ian has been fully trained as a tree surgeon from being a very young lad.  His dad taught him, and in fact he regularly works on quite a few trees belonging to other plot holders down on our site.

Due to various factors though, he’s never worked on our orchard trees.

Until yesterday, that is!The orchard.

As you can see from this hasty photo before he began, it was a bit of a mess, to say the least.

When these trees were first planted, the volunteer who advised on them was into ‘permaculture’, that is growing stuff around the bottom of the trees.  Consequently, there were all manner of other ‘things’ growing all around them, and with them being in ‘dwarf’ stock, and therefore very low to the ground, it meant that any fruit was almost buried by the surrounding ‘mess’ of overgrown foliage.  You couldn’t even get to the trees because of all this other stuff around them.  If you did manage to see a nice piece of fruit, odds on it would be riddled with slug holes and have maggots.

Not good.

Soooo, Ian, who has been planning this assault for weeks now, very carefully cut back most of the overgrown and overhanging branches, and in doing so has not only opened the trees up, but has ensured that if not this year, then certainly next year, we’ll have proper fruit trees, bearing proper fruit.

Also, we’re having a policy over the picking of fruit.

In the autumn, after a hopefully long and glorious summer, we’ll be having fruit-picking sessions.  We’ll be asking volunteers to actively pick the fruit from the trees, rather than leaving it all to drop into the ever-open jaws of the slugs and other nasties on the ground below.

I’ll be doing a very short ‘Sunday Sesh’ today, so I’ll get some more photos of this work-in-progress, and you’ll certainly see the difference!

As I mentioned at the top of this piece, we had loads of volunteers yesterday, and they all seemed to bring food.  Gary was in heaven!

Barry and Sairah brought young Adam and even younger Thomas, so Barry wasted no time in lighting a fire and burning a load of rubbish that needed to go.  Meanwhile, Sara, who’d brought some rather yummy cheese and a chocolate cake was alternating between he plot and ours, while Matt, who’d brought some awesome hot cross bun treacle tart was doing the copious amounts of washing up.

I was working on clearing out more of the metal shed, and managed to get one set of shelving out and fully clean, ready to be transferred into our ‘new’ top shed.

Jon arrived, of course armed with his mug, and over a brief cup of tea, we both agreed that we’d get suited up and have a look in the far hive. We were both concerned that while the centre hive and right hand ‘nuc’ were buzzing, there was no activity from the left one.

But, Dear Reader, you’ll have to wait for my next installment, all about our bees, to read about this.


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