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Bee Blog - January 2021

This month's update from local beekeeper Gerald Bushby

At this time of year I usually look back at what has happened in the past beekeeping year and look forward to what I plan for the next. I generally start each year thinking that the next one will be probably much the same as the last one but it never seems to turn out like that. This year was no exception.

This year, after being stung again by one of my bees and developing a severe allergic reaction for a second time, I started a course of immunology that should last for three years. I have an injection of bee venom every few weeks, hopefully building up my bodies immunity. I have never liked having injections but since keeping bees and experiencing bee stings I find that having an injection is not a problem for me now, it is way less painful than a bee sting!

Whilst the major event this year for us humans has probably been the arrival of the corona virus I don’t think it has had any noticeable affect on the bees. The weather suited them this year, perhaps a little too hot at times but there has been plenty of forage and good nectar flows resulting in my best honey harvest ever. This has been despite the local farmers ceasing growing oil seed rape which the bees usually find irresistible. They seemed to manage to find other sources of nectar to fill up the hives.

In these dull days of winter if it is cold or wet there is no activity around the hives. If the sun comes out however and raises the temperature by a few degrees the bees pop their heads out and when the sun falls on the hives there can be considerable activity. My neighbour has a climbing plant on a boundary fence that flowers in December and on sunny days it has been covered by bees gathering pollen and nectar.  

Looking forward to 2021 I had hoped for a similar year to last year. I had wanted to try rearing my own queens again having learnt a lot from my first years trial and from talking to and watching other beekeepers, to try to refine and improve on my first years efforts. I had also wanted to try comb honey again. It seems to have sold well in my local shop being a completely natural product, straight from bee to the consumer.

All these plans may have to be shelved however as I am somewhat concerned by the presence of a considerable number of new bees in my locality. A local Hotel has just changed ownership and the new owner, another beekeeper, has moved 25 hives into the Hotel grounds. There have usually been about 12 colonies of bees in the village before this and I have concerns that in a village of about 250 houses there may not be enough forage for the bees in all of the colonies now within the village. Bees can only forage in a three mile radius and the village is surrounded by large open fields which are missing the oil seed rape crop which I have referred to previously. Hopefully my concerns will be misplaced, time will tell.

Not only is the subject of how much nectar there is in a given location of interest, who owns the nectar is quite interesting as well. It is a crop that only bees and pollinators can gather. Man has not been able to devise a machine for economically collecting nectar. Landowners may own the plants but bees take the nectar, whilst the same time giving pollination. As beekeepers however we cannot direct where bees go. Bees are not domesticated. They evolved as a highly effective social species long before man even existed. Man cannot claim to have dominion over bees. We have not tamed or altered them the way we have with dogs or farmyard animals. All the beekeeper is able to do is to exploit their natural behaviour to harvest a product. So who owns or has a right to collect nectar from plants is an interesting question!