This is a picture of a conventional Smoker, used by beekeepers to generate cool smoke to puff into beehives prior to opening up the hives for inspection. The smoke placates the bees, whose deep instinctive reaction to smoke is to gorge on the hive’s honey stores, in case “where there’s smoke” there really may be fire. With a communal belly-full of honey, a colony of bees has a chance to relocate and rebuild the wax comb for a new brood nest – but they’re as heavy and as passive as a Christmas pudding. So that’s basically why we use a little smoke when we pay a visit to our bees.
This is a picture of Shard hive (the cedar box under the chimney on the roof-top of the blue/grey warehouse) with a very unconventional kind of Smoker in the foreground. On Saturday evening, this black taxi cab had been jacked up opposite the Bermondsey Street Bees’ apiary and has had its exhaust system removed and substituted with a shisha (hookah) pipe system for passers-by to puff on. Yes, really ! See more on:
Luckily, Shard hive’s bees were all tucked up for the evening, so no bees were involved in this avante-garde performance art. Who knows: a couple of puffs on the mint shisha, and they could have been sluicing down the raki until the small hours on a girls’ night out on Bermondsey Street – and in no fit state to receive their new Queen on Sunday morning.
Hung-over or not, by mid-week we’ll know how her kiwi majesty got on with her new sarf London ladies-in-waiting….
The first inspections of 2013 in the Bermondsey Street Bees' Apiary took place in the balmy evening sunshine on Thursday 25th April 2013: Abbey Hive, firing on all cylinders, Thames Hive, not such a bunch of tearaways, after all, and Shard Hive, cursed with a drone-laying Queen...
Now that Spring is finally here, the Bermondsey Street Bees can begin the business of building up their hives by gathering nectar and pollen – but this time of year also has one major drawback – the pollen which the bees need to fuel their brood production can torment many people with hayfever and severe allergic reactions.
Bermondsey Street Bees may be able to help ! Last year I harvested some delicately-hued local Pollen from White’s Hive. I have 2 phials of this Pollen remaining, so it’s time for the Bermondsey Street Bees first ever Giveaway to Apis subscribers !
The first 2 respondents to this message using the “Post a comment” button on this post will secure their own free phial of Bermondsey Street Bees Pollen (2012 vintage !). Only two conditions: I would very much appreciate your own assessment of its efficacy for your hayfever symptoms – and that you collect the Pollen from Bermondsey Street. This is the final vestige of last year’s Bermondsey Street Bees Pollen. When it’s gone, it’s gone!
Whereas the scientific community is equivocal on the benefits of local pollen to alleviate the symptoms of hayfever and related allergies, there are many who believe that consuming local pollen provides considerable protection against these immune reactions of the human body.
If ever there was an offer not to be sneezed at – this is it!
There are some weeks when whole months happen. This week is shaping up to be one of those weeks in the Bermondsey Street Bees’ apiary.
While the art of creative pizza construction has sure come a long way since the tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil-topped, thin-crust prototype, I was a little taken aback by the ingredients of the “Valdostano” at Litrico’s in Fiumicello di Maratea in Basilicata. Go for the house pizza instead !
I have to wonder, though, whether the temptation to micro-manage my colonies in this frustrating and tedious Spring must have got the better of me ! I am not an habitual Spring feeder, but this Winter was just too long and too harsh to risk not feeding, in my view. Enough nurture for now.
Ever wondered how bees build their nests?
Take a look at this high-speed time-lapse video (hat-tip to pioneer Eadweard Muybridge) to see this 3-month construction of a summer brood nest – all in under 2 minutes !
This is a “top bar” hive in which the bees build their own brood and honey comb hanging down from the bars. In London’s dense, urban environment, Bermondsey Street Bees require a little more “management” to ensure their good health, my neighbours’ peace of mind and a decent honey crop in September!
And if you’re wondering why the hive suddenly looks a lot emptier halfway through the video…. welcome to another characteristic of natural beekeeping – and arch-enemy of urban beekeepers – the Swarm, recently departed, with the old Queen taking with her half of the work-force.
In Australia, Dr. Andrew Barron has been working to understand the neural pathways involved in human addiction and recruited the honeybee to study how human/bee brains react to addictive drugs, by depositing a dose of cocaine (certainly “experimental”, but definitely not “recreational” !) on the bees’ thorax – that’s the bit between the head and the body to which the bee’s wings are attached.
Bees on cocaine “danced more frequently and more vigorously for the same quality food,” Dr. Barron said. “They were about twice as likely to dance” as undrugged bees, and they circled “about 25% faster.” In other words, they became hyper-charged blaggers…..
The study suggested that honeybees are affected by cocaine in ways similar to humans (ie cocaine made the bees much more enthusiastic communicators) and therefore may be useful as experimental models of drug addiction. The researchers concluded that that cocaine activates neuropharmacological reward mechanisms in insects which are analogous to mammals, but that “Despite its reinforcing properties, cocaine remains an effective plant defense because the concentrations occurring in coca leaves are such that herbivorous insects very rapidly ingest a toxic dose“.
And if you spot white powder on the backs of your Bermondsey Street Bees, stay cool – from June onwards it’s probably pollen from the Himalayan Balsam plant (see photo above)!
With special thanks to Dr. Andrew Barron, Alison Carter, Editor of Optima, and to The Master and Fellows of Fitzwilliam College in the University of Cambridge for their kind permissions.
Here’s a collector’s item: a rare 1984 picture of a Drone interloping amongst the Queen Bee’s “court” of female attendants (take a bow, Sarah and Penny!)