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Posts Tagged ‘bees’

Bee awareness.

I love our honeybees, I could go so far as to say I absolutely adore our bees, but they are not the only pollinators so we shouldn’t just concentrate on saving them.

These little ladies with the remarkable ability to cut so precisely may be in your garden.

Have you ever noticed little semicircles or circles cut out of your leaves? Then you possibly have Leafcutter bees.

Until we moved into Hesketh House, which is a wildlife magnet, I had never even heard of them – but apparently they are 10 times better pollinators than honeybees which is why they’re so important.

They are one of dozens of species of solitary bees meaning they live on their own and make little individual nests. As their name suggests, they cut out leaves and roll them up into tubes inside a tiny tunnel burrowed into wood – and in our case, an old beer barrel hoist on the front of the house with an extremely well used timber beam (seen above to the left of the front door).

They’ve come back for the last three years which is a huge thrill for us.

This is my new wisteria planted very recently to grow up the front of the house and is providing them with an easy source of nesting material – they obviously like it even more than the roses.

The sacrifice of a few holes in the leaves is well worth it for these industrious little pollinators, and I hope they continue to use our house for many years to come.

In fact, our roofer completed his restoration and had the scaffolding removed just as the Leafcutter’s returned for their new season…..a good thing too, because one of those posts was right against the wooden section they use!


#heskethhouseapiary #heskethhouse #BackyardBeekeeping #saveourpollinators #savetheleafcutterbee #leafcutterbees #solitarybees

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Today our eldest gave our bees the ultimate compliment.  She made an amazing sourdough bread and posted the results on Instagram; her response to my compliment was “Thanks Mom, it’s divine with your honey.  I don’t know what your bees eat but it tastes like lavender and citrus and angels’ kisses!”  Isn’t that wonderful 🙂

Our bees are so precious and we don’t take much honey from them, but when we did get a small bottle a few weeks ago, I sent a tiny jam bottle of honey to London for them to taste the difference between natural and unprocessed honey and shop bought honey.  It is INCREDIBLE, and you only know how incredible when you take the real thing.

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Once again….Thank you bees!

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PLEASE HELP SAVE OUR BEES!!!

I cannot believe that it has been a year since we received our first bees and I wanted to remind people that bees are SUPER important to humans and we should be protecting and not destroying them.  A lack of knowledge of these little creatures sometimes makes people fearful, but please protect our bees or we may all die of starvation!

If you see a swarm please contact your local beekeepers association or someone who keeps bees and they will take the swarm away.  DO NOT call an exterminator as they will simply spray and destroy the swarm.  This site will also help you to identify whether they are bees, wasps or bumble bees who have moved into your bird box or under your eaves.

Here is how the swarm may look……

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…and you can read up about them in a previous post of mine here.

Here is a beautiful photo our son took of one of our girls….

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…and here we are about to enjoy the fruits of all their labour…..

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…and this is what the boys are most excited about….

IMG_0001…two demijohns (about 12 bottles) of mead that I made from the first batch of honey we harvested in August last year!  It is now crystal clear and ageing in the cellar until the end of this year when they get to test it (patience please boys!).

And to think, without these beautiful little creatures we would have no honey and therefore no sweet treats or honey wine….that alone makes them worth saving! 🙂

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Fact number 1 – we are VERY new beeks (or beekeepers).

Fact number 2 – we learn something new every week; and sometimes the hard way (sorry bees!).

Fact number 3 – my boys LOVE their girls and are rather protective of them 🙂

Okay, enough facts, let me just give you an update on how our beekeeping is going.

Our WBC hive; the pretty white one we spent WAY too much money on before we knew we could do this free!; is doing very well…. now anyway!  We somehow lost the queen; we think in a comb collapse that may have been as a result of our inexperience.  You learn, sometimes the hard way, that foundationless hives need time for the new comb to harden enough to handle and inspect them.  This lesson has been VERY well learned.

Luckily for us newbies, the bees are clever and knew they needed a new queen and got right on the job of producing some new potential heirs to the throne.  We had at least 6 new queen cups within a couple of weeks.  We fretted for weeks because the weather was terrible and thought our new queens may not be able to fly and mate, but signs in the hive are now much improved, and weeks and weeks later we are seeing pollen going into the hive once more; and all our research tells us that this is because we have a new queen and she is back and laying eggs.  We are too nervous to look; and anyway the Great British weather has hardly been summery this August and the less than 15 degree celsius temperatures have meant we have left them alone – probably not a bad thing either.

If you haven’t seen bees in slow motion this little video taken a few weeks after we got the swarm may interest you….

The reason the comb collapsed was that it was so heavy with honey and nectar that the new comb could not withstand the weight.  We took out an A5 paper sized piece that couldn’t be rescued; the only benefit (to us) of the comb collapse was that we inadvertently had some honey which we were not expecting this year.  Apart from a little jar of the best honey we have EVER tasted, the rest is currently being made into mead…..

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After fermentation and racking it ready for ageing, I have it on good authority from my boys that this already tastes fabulous – thank you bees!

Since our last inspection we were very concerned that the bees would not have enough space to store honey for the winter.  We made the decision to upgrade the WBC hive by adding a super above the brood box.  With this hive it was no small feat because the hexagon shape had to be replicated for the outer shell.  Hubby did an amazing job building this and then a new box on the inside……

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Only yesterday, we learned some rather harsh truths about hive life.  Hubby came home after work and went to check up on the girls – he does this by simply sitting next to the hive and observing.  Next thing he flew inside and declared “there is something terribly wrong with the hive; there are hundreds of dead bees on the ground outside the hive”.  Please note, hubby is known for his occasional vociferous outbursts, so I didn’t take him too seriously until I had a few more facts to hand.   What we knew was 1) we had hundreds of dead bees; 2) it was the first sunny day in weeks; 3) it is coming up to autumn.  These three things clicked a memory in my brain about something I had recently read – drones (the male bees) are usually evicted from the hive before winter so the workers don’t waste energy feeding them and they also don’t waste the hives valuable winter food resources.  I asked the boys to check the dead bees and here is the image they brought to me…..

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And a brilliant little video clearly showing the much larger drones (you see how big they are compared to the workers, and they also have very large eyes and rounded abdomens without stings) being forced from the hive by workers…..

Proof positive that hive life can seem rather harsh – the worker bees had indeed evicted the drones.  All the casualties were dead drones.  They had outlived their usefulness for the year and would no longer be tolerated!  Macabre was the word my son used and he is probably right looking at the picture – a little bee burial ground!

And finally, here are some lovely pictures our son took of a few of the girls…..

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Having rather abruptly ended my previous post on the hive, I did not realise I hadn’t shown you all the finished article!  This post will address my neglect 🙂

Since making the body of the top bar hive, it still needed to have a roof because believe me, the weather in the UK does NOT provide enough sunshine to ensure the bars on the hive don’t get continually wet.  The roof also serves as insulation for the hive in both summer and winter.  Ours is a simple construction of two gable ends with cross rails and old pallet wood as the ‘slates’.  The piece of plywood (costing only a couple of pounds) used for the ends was the only item we have had to buy for the hive so if you are thrifty and love to upcycle, this is definitely the hive for you.

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IMG_8648-0.JPGNow all that is left to do is see if it fits….

Not bad, but next time we will definitely make the pitch of the roof shallower…. in this case we just cut a peak to the full height of the board we purchased, but it really is a little high…. hey, I don’t think the girls will mind.

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My two beeks (hubby and son) and I have been doing a lot of research on beehives and decided that we wanted to go down the top-bar hive route. A good thing because they can be built for next to no money if you have a house with all sorts of material lying around.
We downloaded the plans from http://www.biobees.com and spent a weekend upcycling old doors and shelves to make the main hive.
A piece of glass from an unneeded door was turned into an observation window, and other scrap pieces used to make the top bars.
A quick lick of sealer – only on the outside – and it was nearly ready.

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