Bayer German Lawsuit Fails

Chemical giant Bayer has failed in its attempt to sue Friends of the Earth Germany over its claims that its pesticide Thiacloprid harms bees. Now pressure is growing on the EU to add the neonicotinoid to the three already banned.  Read more.

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Flow Hive Frenzy

Many of you will have seen my previous post on the Flow Hive and those of you who agree with the views expressed need read no further.

However, any beekeeper who spends time on the internet or reads newspapers  will be well aware of the hive’s rapturous reception, regretfully even among some who might place themselves amongst the community of natural beekeepers. The promise of ‘less disturbance’ to the bees is proving very attractive. Sadly it is a deception. What is not spoken of, and to which I have already alluded, is the disconnect that lies in the thinking behind the idea.

Two quotes illustrate the disconnect to which I refer: ‘Our dream was that this would increase the bee population around the world and help people become engaged with bees’ and ‘Hopefully now people won’t need to spend as much time harvesting’.  I read that as saying it’s OK for the bees to fly millions of miles to garner nectar and spend hours ripening that nectar into honey, but the beekeeper should be able to remove that honey with a twist of a tap. Is that ‘engagement’? 

The huge commercial operations where one sees honey being harvested in a manner that is, frankly, brutal will not be using the technology described here: its far too expensive and liable to fail.  In this context, the idea that there is less disturbance to the bees when the tap is turned has the appearance of being a somewhat disingenuous justification.

In the case of hobby beekeeping, it is entirely possible to harvest honey responsibly and gently without the Flow Hive.  I don’t even wear protective gear. The bees seem quite happy to share genuine surplus.

Within Bee-centred beekeeping, anyone truly interested in holistic husbandry has a rich choice of avenues for truly engaging with bees without inserting inappropriate and damaging technology into the heart of the complex organism that is the bee colony.  The wax combs of a bee hive are an integral part of the bee organism, just as are the internal organs of a mammal.  We should not mess with them.  The importance of the comb is beautifully described on the blog of a true bee-centred beekeeper, here.

If you want bees that are completely undisturbed, put a hive up a tree and leave the bees to it. In other words, become a bee conservator; goodness knows, the bees need it. And, if you want honey, go to a beekeeper and buy some.

If, on the other hand, you want to be a beekeeper yourself, then realize that being a beekeeper, just as with caring for any other animal, requires a degree of commitment and engagement. Don’t fall into the marketing speak that you can be a beekeeper and get lots of honey just by twisting a tap. That is not beekeeping or engagement, that is casual exploitation, based on by the view that everything that one desires can be obtained with no effort or engagement other than a casual flick of the wrist.

On the bright side, thoughtful beekeepers all over the world, are making their voices heard in the current noisy euphoria.  They range from beekeepers of the conventional sort (as in this video) to those of a biodynamic persuasion.  That is encouraging and a sign, perhaps that the Bee has a view, too.  Here is the NBKT’s position, updated since my previous post on the subject.

Gareth, Cotswolds

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From the Oxfordshire Natural Beekeeping Group

This series of articles is about the overlooked world of tiny insects around us, what they do for us, and the challenges they face, particularly bees.  …. More here.

Gareth, Cotswolds

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The Flow Hive

Some of you may have seen the recent froth on the internet around a creation termed by its inventors the Flow Hive (you can check it out on Youtube).  It seems the hive contains within it plastic combs that can be split down the middle by the operation of plastic cams.  Thus, any honey contained within the comb flows out (if it hasn’t crystallized).  This honey then flows out of the hive in a channel and can be collected via a pipe.  Apart from practical questions about whether the honey thus removed is sufficiently ripened, I personally am against plastic combs and find the whole idea behind the Flow Hive quite appalling.  The wax combs of a bee hive are an integral part of the bee organism, just as are the internal organs of a mammal.  We should not mess with them.

There are some further comments on the Natural Beekeeping Trust’s blog.

Gareth, Cotswolds

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Bees Dance to a Different Tune

At the still point of the turning world …. there the dance is …
and there is only the dance.  More here.

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Bandit Bees

bandit bees

In response to the post about eternal drones & the unusual behaviour for the time of year this is a picture of the bandit bees that have broken into a weaker colony across the garden  & taken over. It didn’t take them long. I noticed a determined line of bees coming & going from this colony at 10.00 this morning, followed it & found a bit of a massacre!  It’s all gone quiet now at 3pm. I am wondering whether they will partially inhabit this hive as there are a LOT of them in their original hive. No drones though that I have seen. In fact no drones among any of the colonies here.

The cooler weather didn’t put off these bees & hasn’t ever since they arrived mid july this year. They can be seen in all weathers, bringing back pollen in large quantities & now of course the greatest prize of all….someone else’s honey!!  Hopefully they will at least have filled some of the above gaps in the comb with this thieved honey. The top photo was taken about 3 weeks before the bottom photo so they are evidently getting some stores from somewhere.

Survival of the fittest, for sure.

They had evidently tried to invade another colony too who were out in their numbers at the entrances, obviously “bugged” & in defence mode!! I reduced the entrance to one for that colony & left them to it. They soon settled down to bringing in pollen & seemed to be more relaxed.

I wanted to post a video of the robbing but sadly IT capabilities are not quite there.

I am wondering if the bees are outdoing themselves in vim & vigour due to the constantly milder weather we are experiencing, instead of hunkering down & conserving energy.

IMG_1540Posted by Sal P

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Everlasting Drones

One of our Warre Hives dragged out its drones around the week of 22nd August, as normal this year.  Subsequently, from September onwards it has been gripped by a second honey flow fervour which has seen its numbers increase dramatically so that in October it was flying as vigorously as in the main honey flow in June.  Nothing on this scale has happened to this hive in the last two years.  (by contrast our other warre is just ticking over, a few bees coming out, drones a distant memory & well hunkered down for winter).

On the 1st October drones re-appeared from this hive in substantial numbers and throughout the month our garden has echoed to the sounds of the noisy old beggars flying incongruously around yellowing autumnal vegetation.  As I write on 12th November, during a brief sunny interlude in the rain, Drones are still flying unmolested by house bees even though there are dead bees littering the ground in front of the hive as the years workers gradually expire.

What is interesting is the excitement of the hive – hard to describe, but they seem to be scrambling to get at the forage even though by now supplies must be dwindling fast.  I’ve read that the physical presence of Drones can have an effect on the behaviour of bees in the hive..?

I’d be interested if anyone else has experienced the same as this exceptionally warm autumn comes to an end, in the meantime I’ll be savouring  the sounds of summer while they last!

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