My advice to bee-fanciers: there is no better time to visit a beehive than on a warm midsummer’s day around noon. As you approach, what first looks like a polka-dot pandemonium of yellow and black resolves itself as two bee-dances of distinctly different tempos being performed at the hive entrance. First, the looping swing-dance of the novice flyers fills the vertical plane, hive-facing and elliptical, while glissades of hard-flying, veteran foragers trace determined zip-lines to and from the hive. Using the shifting sun as their compass, the bees are pin-point marionettes, orienteering to their hive in a veritable “Cirque du Soleil”.
"Keep Calm and Carry On” was the rallying call in another, now distant, crisis. To combat the current manifest of maladies and affliction in our bee-hives, I would propose the antidote which worked for me last weekend, swapping bee-stories with John Chapple: “Break Out the Tea and Biscuits - and Talk Bees !”
Here's the recipe to make perfect Queen bees: take 6 new queen cells; leave two in situ and place two each in two Kieler breeding mini-hives, together with some starter wax strips to get the brood comb started; add 250g of bakers' fondant; finally pour in a "cupful" of young bees. Leave to prove for 2 1/2 weeks. Et voila!
There are some 250 species of bee in the British Isles. But only one of these is the honeybee. That’s right – one honeybee, 249 other bee species. A arresting thought - so let's take a step back to consider the evidence. We all have a nodding acquaintance with the 17 different “bumblebee” species which, taken together with the honeybee, are the only bee species in the U.K. which inhabit social colonies (ie hives). So when we are think “bee” our image of “the usual suspects” captures less than 20 out of 250 species – while the remaining 92% of bees in the line-up are all solitary species of bee.
In the vocabulary of beekeepers, there’s a lot of room for name-dropping. For example, I have just deployed a “Snelgrove board” for the first time, on Abbey Hive. But I could equally well be droning on about a “Bailey comb change”, a "Butler cage", a “Porter bee-escape” a “WBC (William Broughton Carr) Hive”, a “Buckfast bee”, the “Horsley method” or a “Smith grobulator” (OK, so I made the last one up, but you get my drift…).
Proper names are the basis for much technical bee-terminology. Very proper names, in fact. These sound as quintessentially English as the summery crack of leather on willow on the village green. I bet if you visited any churchyard in the deep countryside, humming with bees, you could read off half of those names from the worn headstones !
Regrettably, in many glossy epics, the prima donna meets with misadventure and is written out of the script. Deprived of her familiar image on the screen, the audience suffers temporary bereavement, but, after a short period of mourning, soon warms to the replacement heroine. Taking that message to heart, we say a fond “adieu” to Ruby, Queen of Shard Hive and prime the PR pumps for Primrose, Queen of Thames Hive - as the Bermondsey Street Bees’ new diva.
"Forage" - A new pop-up restaurant off Bermondsey Street - a "flier" for the Grand Opening. We are fortunate to be well provided with great restaurants here, but as a beekeeper, I am concerned about what can be done to ensure that there is sufficient food out there for London’s local bees to eat. Hence this focus on "Forage".