First of all, sorry to anyone who has not been able to read this post before i.e. because it hasn't shown up. Hope all is OK now and thanks for your comments letting me know about it.
In my earlier post here I decided on the flowers I'd like in my bee-friendly garden and I'm now happy that my bees are going to have plenty to forage on. Flying bees will be looking for four things; nectar and pollen (bee food), propolis and water. Propolis is a sticky, resinous substance collected from various trees, which bees use as a glue to keep their comb in good condition. Beekeepers don't tend to collect propolis for use, although it can be used by us as an antiseptic and for other products such as soap...
Bees will also want access to water and they can collect it on my smallholding from the large pond or my new mini pond. Both have shallow areas for the bees to visit easily.
On a warm day in March or April, I'll spring clean the hives by transferring the bees to a clean hive and blow torching the old one to scorch all the detritus in it. I'll also replace old comb with new. This is a really satisfying job - it's the kind of spring cleaning I enjoy because I'm sitting out in the sun on the grass cleaning out all the winter muck from the hives (and it's so much better than spring cleaning the house!!) Good hygiene in the hives is important because it helps to keep the bee diseases at bay.
There was bad news on the subject of bee diseases last week. Recent research has found that two diseases found in honeybees have now been found in bumblebees (details here). Bumblebees (like honeybees) are already facing threats such as pesticides and a decline in the areas where they can forage and so this could well be another serious blow to their well-being. And, unlike honeybees, (which are managed in a hive), I'm not even sure how wild bumblebees could ever be treated...
But I'm going to help bumblebees as much as I can, so I'm creating a nest site for them. I've taken an old, broken storage jar and half buried it in the ground, drilling a bumblebee size hole in the front. I've also been collecting some moss, and when I've dried this out, I'll put it inside the jar for nest material. It may be a bit roomy, but I hope the bumblebees discover it and will want to use it this spring.
Like other beekeepers, I'll do my best to look after the health of my bees throughout the year. And I recently came across a new idea to help me do this - The Bee Gym. I love the name! It's basically a framework of different shaped devices that are placed on a mesh floor of a beehive - and its purpose is to rid bees of the varroa mite (this is a nasty mite that attaches itself to bees and can eventually destroy colonies). When the bee visits the gym, it scrapes the mite off of its body when it passes through the different devices - and the mite falls through the mesh.
I very much hope the Bee Gym works - the varroa mite is one of the most serious threats facing honeybees today and it's good to hear about a such a simple solution to tackle it.
|Honeybee on Camellia|
I'm now going to source the flowers and seeds I need for my bee-friendly garden - and everything will be organic. Tammy at Casa Mariposa in her great post here talks about pollinator-friendly flowers in garden centres that are not what they seem because they have already been treated with harmful pesticides. So that's something to look out for. Unfortunately, though, I can't stop my bees flying right over everything I've planted to a field of crops that have been sprayed with agricultural pesticides. This is just what bees do. But I'm glad that the European Union has banned some of the most deadly neonicotinoid pesticides. The chemical industries are lobbying hard to overturn this ban, and the UK Government didn't support it in the first place, but it's important that it stays in place to protect our bees and other pollinators.
They need so much help.