Bees

I am trying out something slightly curious this year with an empty hive.  I have laid it out inside with brood frames and wax foundation and am not putting a brood colony in, just waiting to see if a scout finds it and when a swarm occurs from that colony perhaps they will locate the new queen and colony in there rather than a hollow tree.  Many bee keepers say that a nucleus that relocates into a hive out of choice (as opposed to a swarm you pick up and dump into a new hive) ends up being more successful as it is the workers' choice of location so passes their QC tests as to safety, warmth, aspect etc (sun hitting the south facing flight ramp of the hive early in the morning, protection round the side from hedges, open flight path over grass etc etc). Getting up one morning and finding a few thousand bees in your hive which weren't there the day before is something that makes you smile. Especially since a colony can cost you £250 if you buy one (though you will earn money if you go and collect one from someone's house or orchard). Let's see what occurs.

In my home office there's been a weird buzzing noise in the corner for some weeks. A sort of "zub" or "tsub" noise. Not a buzz. A zzub.  Not a team hum like a bee hive or a zap zap zap of wasps and hornets coming and going and knocking their lobster-like exoskeletons on the masonry.  Last night they were still at it. Zub. silence. Zub.  Quite weird high note, lots of nothing then zub.  We have regular wasp and hornet issues but this was something different.

This morning I stood outside and checked in the gap behind a wisteria and the gutter. There is a 5 mill gap between the top of the brick and the hanging tiles. Nothing coming out. Then as the sun warmed the tiles they appeared. Absolutely loads of bumble bees. Coming and going where the wisteria has pushed its runners into the tile gap then died back. It's a nest of sticks inside the tiling and a load of fat bumbles are in there.  I'm not touching them. They are not destroyers of masonry and they are busy pollinating my late apple blossom.

So far this spring I have not found any wasp or hornet nests. I had a serious purge in the autumn so think I may have broken the cycle. I read in the papers this week that although we venerate honey bees, certain sub species of wasps are far more intelligent than honey bees and more advanced in evolutionary terms. They can reason to a limited degree - transitive inference. Another good reason to use fire, shock and awe on them.  I am not surprised to learn this. I keep finding them flying into their nests carrying the heads of the young from my bee hives. They fly in, ignore the stings and attacks from the workers and clamber onto the brood chamber and then find the emerging young - not the pupae which are too hard to dig out, but the young whose heads and thorax are poking out of the cells, just on the day these young bees emerge to get to work. They bite off the head and thorax and carry that back to the nest to feed their own young with.  Well absolutely fuck that. This advanced behaviour does nothing to improve my regard for them. https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/08/us/paper-wasps-logic-scli-intl-scn/index.html

 

 

 

 

 

There is a tree creeper walking up the bough of the tree opposite my office window and a flycatcher is standing on the aforementioned wisteria picking insects off the blossom.  That's two for the garden list along with my miraculous firecrest over the winter.

Mutters, was it you that posted the story about someone who ordered chilled bees from the web and forgot to tell their wife, who then opened them, left them on the side somewhere and had a house full of angry bees to contend with?  Because that one made me weep with laughter.

My old dear was up at her allotment the other day when a colony from one of the neighbouring plots (beekeeper's obv) suddenly swarmed.  the new colony balled on a branch of a massive old oak.  apparently it's quite the spectacle.

yes, Badders, it was. They received  a delivery in a box that was covered in foil and foam, but with an air valve. Inside is a polystyrene temporary hive with six frames of brood and a queen. So that's about 20-30k workers, 5-10k drones.  It was left on the porch and warmed up in the sun. She had no idea what it was. Lifted it up and still not clear so gave it a good shake thinking it was some sort of present. Always good to check the rattle. Anyway, undeterred, she then started stripping off the outer coating and foil and only got what it was when she undid the tapes around the polyhive and they came out and all over the kitchen.
Miraculously she wasn't stung.  Getting them all out of the kitchen and into the hive again proved tricky. On my advice they left the poly hive open then lit an incense stick in the room and as the sun went down the bees all retreated into the hive box again. Bees react to fire/smoke as a warning that there is a forest fire. They retreat to the honey stores and set about eating it and protecting the queen, knowing they may need to relocate so need energy. They won't sting when they are doing this as they are just following one rule - stay in the hive and eat the food.  

wang it is a spectacle if you see it actually happen as what occurs first is that the queen does a spiralling flight upwards and all the drones (males) fly after her to mate. They then alight on a branch and mate with her and then the workers find them and form a ball around the mating group to protect them all. The spiralling swarm is quite amazing to watch. People freak out because there is a sense that they will all get stung but you can walk into a swarm with no protection and you won't get stung. They are not as aggressive as they look right then. Drones have no sting. Workers have no desire to sting when out of the hive and protecting the queen. I've moved a swarm off a fruit tree in shorts and t shirt with no gloves. Seriously odd thing to do, I know, but I was a long way from home and didn't have any kit with me.

Cool info and posts, Mutts - ta.

In a crossover with Scylla's ET thread though, when people ask how aliens with first visit Earth, I reckon this is it - you're basically setting out a welcome mat for them. Start moulding a model mountain from mashed potato at supper this evening...

Heh heh heh heh heh.  That's a fucking awesome story.  You'd spend literally years trying to recoup the lost brownie points from an incident like that.

*and notes that Mutts home apparently has ready incense sticks lying about*

;)

I think hornets are probably an alien invasion currently in train. They first came when humans didn't exist and modelled themselves on an apparently successful species, but got the size a bit wrong. They have ever since planned a mass uprising but keep getting thwarted by spraycans and angry bee keepers. It is a bit of a lame effort.

That's exactly what the slugs want us to think...

I do not have incense sticks lying around. I asked him whether he had anything like a hot smoker or a griddle he could put oak chips on. No. how about a scented candle, he said. No, but if you have that have you got any of those room scent oil sticks etc and he said nope none of that shit but there is an insense stick so I said set fire to as many of those you can and get all Catholic with them (march round waving it and praying to God) which he did and voila

DEFRA requires me to notify if I find an Asian Hornet.  Those bastards are an alien species in every sense of the word and I should think it is their standard behaviour to probe humans and suck out their brains, and to bum cows. If one turns up it won't just be Defra I am notifying.  I will inform the National Enquirer.

" all the drones (males) fly after her to mate. They then alight on a branch and mate with her"

 

And you say there are five to ten thousand drones in a hive??

a full hive is about 40-60,000 bees at the height of the season, the majority of which are workers. There will be one queen and about 5-10,000 drones.

she gets a lot of it but  limited to a specific occasion.

How does she survive 5-10000 of them trying to mate with her?

actually what the fuck am I talking about. No, there are about 500 not 5000. Entirely wrong order of magnitude. Sorry. In a 40-60,000 hive there will be less than 1000 fertile males.

Still, a few hundred shags all one after the other. She gets absolutely bathed in bee sperm. Then she lays one egg per cell, one after each other day in day out, all of which are fertilised when laid.

I guess bees have a strong sense of humour labelling that job "the queen"

the interesting bit is not all that. It's the role of the workers. The vast majority of bees in the hive are female, all infertile (the difference between a queen and a worker is simply that the queen has been fed royal jelly in her brood cell to such a level that it stimulates the growth of reproductive organs whereas workers emerge from pupal state without that period of feeding and growth). An infertile female is called a worker and lives only 6-7 weeks from pupa to death. During that period she graduates through the roles from cell cleaner (living on the wax comb, cleaning out evacuated cells) to wax maker and comb builder, to the flight board as protector of the front of house and then on the wing as collector of pollen and nectar, then honey maker. Each stage is a fixed period of time and she knows when to move through the cycle. When she dies, the cleaners remove her body from the bottom of the hive.  As long as your queen is producing fertile eggs cell by cell then everything works like clockwork and you soon have a production line of arrivals and departures, and births and growth in between. At the heart of all this is a command and control behaviour initiated by the emission of pheromones by the queen and workers, buzzing and body waggling by workers and general group endeavour. It is quite remarkable. It all starts and stops with weather and nectar flow. When that stops, it all stops.  

That’s incredibly interesting mate.  You should compile some of these and publish them as a book of country anecdotes.

I may write these notes down all in one but I have often thought it would not properly sell. Those interested in it tend to know it and those who are not all over it tend to think fuckk that unless they trip over it in a situation like this or have it rammed down their throat by someone they humour (RoF beig a very benign example of the latter).

I have often thought of writing a book called  "bees, birds, Labradors, motorbikes,  real ale and shit that happens in my shed".
 

Received a new touring screen for the motorbike this morning. Hurrah. Had forgotten I ordered that.

 

Nice.  You can always self publish either in electronic format or print.  It’s not expensive these days.  Imagine in a hundred years time so descendent discovering your book with all these stories, how cool would that be.

rumours that great grandfather was a timewasting yokel cuntbadger confirmed

the only published work in my family is my great uncle (monsignor wang)'s leading treatise on annullment in the catholic church.

unless you count my mrs' chapter in an insurance loose leaf or my article on using material adverse change clauses as the basis for enforcement ("Return of the MAC", Twatt's Bankruptcy Journal, 2005)

My Grandmother published a few books back in the 30s and 40s. Amazingly, one of them has caught the imagination of another generation. She was a broadcaster and writer and her book was a guide to how to shop economically and cook decent courses for dinners you'd want people to come round and eat with you.  If I give you the title then you can identify the author and the family tree that follows, out me and destroy everything (feck all actually, ed) so won't be doing that. But it had a good couple of editions at the time and was well received by a younger generation who were starting out and wanting to know about choices of meat in the butcher,  how long to cook this or that for, how to buy food with a ration book and still not end up serving shite, seasonal food choices, how to augment the meal with easily foraged wild foods, how to get the veg on at the right time, how to ask your butcher for this rather than that etc. and to end up delivering a nice meal to the surprise of all concerned.  Basically it was a guide book on how to look like you are absolutely in charge in your own kitchen, and thus how to get taken seriously and, ultimately, laid and find a spouse in a world where too many people had been killed by war. A thing of its time, you may think. But no, an enduring manual.   Each of us were given a copy when we went to uni.  It was of magnificent assistance to all aspects of its purpose.  Now it has been republished and my children's generation have it. There are 14 children between 16 and 25 in my wider family, all of whom are off to some sort of uni or have been there already and each swears by this book.   

So the legacy of the oldger generation is interesting - you are right.

 

My grandfather (her husband) used to say "try anything once, except creme de menthe and morris dancing".   Sage advice.

 

I love the fact that you think I’d get into some kind of rof ‘who you think you are?’ Hehmax.  I worked that one out about 4 years ago dude.

Creme de menthe is ace.  It's what happens when you mate a bailey's with an after 8

Wow - you need to break that up with paragraphs, Mutters.  Not that it's not interesting, but the density of the text is making my eyes water.  It's like trying to read the Magna Carta.  Or a New York high yield convertible bond instrument.

I know but there are many morons lining the corridors of this weird institution.

Not you, Bailey*.

 

I'm sure you'd be delicious covered in mind.  And wearing your gown.  *Shudder*

Was that in response to the density of text observation, or the minty Baileys thing?

*Sigh* - "mint", even.  

 

You know, some days, typing (and work in general) just isn't happening for me.  Today is one of those days.

My comment about the institution was in response to tecco

In other nature news, I had a pair of wagtails, a pair of starlings, a goldcrest and a host of tits (great coal and blue) on the feeders this weekend.  also saw a couple of (i think) kestrels hovering and a heron.

one time i was working at the kitchen table; the room had french windows onto a small first floor roof terrace; it was a sunny day. Suddenly the room went dark. I looked up, an effing great heron was on the roof terrace balustrade, so about four feet from me. Big enough to block out the sun.

 

i dont really like herons :(

wagtails on the feeder. You must have insects in the feeders. Normally they sprint around the lawns taking the small bugs off the blades of grass and ignore feeders as (a) they get spooked by competition and (b) they don't eat seeds.

 

 

You are quite right they and the starlings were on the lawn.  guess it's leatherjacket season.  mr waggy was also gathering twigs so hopefully mrs w is in the spud club.

Bumblebees can hibernate through extremely low temperatures. They essentially switch off all bodily functions except for some tiny part of the brain.

When the air warms up they disconnect from their wings their  whopping flight muscles and vibrate them to generate heat which then defrosts the rest of their bodies.  They'd be great interstellar travellers

I seem to recall reading years ago that some science boffin had spent years of his life proving that bumblebees shouldn't under the laws of physics be capable of flight...

will try to find it

A heron ate all my ducklings, frogs and fish this spring. Nothing left. The silence of the pondz.

my old next door neighbour had a half acre garden that was almost entirely pond, apart from a giant willow Nd an even more gogantic ash.  when they moved in 50 years ago they excitedly stocked said pond with large and no doubt expensive coy.  the local heron had the whole lot within a week. they restocked and the same happened - apparently the giant willow made a wonderful vantage point.

they then decided to switch to rare ducks with tory MP style houses in the pond on islands (and sarcastic 5 am laughing habits).

wild mallards used to fly in (with Airplane levels of guile) and really rather ruin the pedigree.  the moorhens came in to our garden as the pillaging of the mallards went on.

Mutters

1) pleased to report I saved a bee today. Returning from snipping herbs I saw a small bee struggling in a cobweb and the spider pouncing. Easy decision to snip the cobweb and bee flew off, a bit bogged down by cobweb, but still. Dont give a fvck about the spider - common garden variety.

2) in our weekend place I arrived to find lots of bits of small bees in an upstairs room. Heads and thoraxes. There are bees living here, always have been, they hatch out and you arrive to find them around. Wasps also. And ladybirds ( earlier in spring, curtains). One year v upset to find a dozen bees dead in kitchen sink - trying for water no doubt. Anyway, this year, lots of hits of small bees. Was this maybe wasp attack?

many years ago some rare bees lived in our chimney and neighbours’. You were not allowed to light the fire, apparently. We know this to be true as after a big wind we still get blackened honeycomb coming down the chimney ending up on the carpet in one room with unlined flue. Spooky! You think what the hell is that? 

​​​​​​also, a crazy bee in the kitchen, this way and that. Unbalanced by a round thing on one leg like he’d stepped on a seed?? Is this the nasty mite? Couldnt help him out, too random in direction, I think he crashed and burned on the aga in the end.

Dealing with your last one first.

this is unlikely to be a varroa mite. You can barely see these unless you get your magnifying glass out and they are mostly on the abdomen not legs.

I think it was probably exhausted, returning from collecting pollen, took a wrong turning and ended up dehydrated and hungry in your kitchen. They quickly fade. This thing in its leg was probably a full pollen sac.  A small yellow bump.

now to your chimney- get that cleaned and remove the comb. Wax is highly flammable. 

 

Well done on the bee liberation. Another one saved. 

On 2) you probably have a wasps nest in the ceiling above. Bee heads and thoraxes - yes wasps. They drop them out of the nest and they fall through Light fittings and ceiling gaps. 

Ah. Most informative ( and interesting), thank you.

the chimney is not a big concern. The honeycomb falls put of the flue above an upstairs room only and before it joins the main flue from downstairs, which has been cleAned many times.

a great shame re the wasp nest. We shall have to find it. I think you are absolutely right re falling through light fittings and the like. A bugger to identify whence however!

thank you again. I will be forwarding this thread to Mr M who wants to take up beekeeping in his retirement. He says he has read about much about which you wrote but nothing like hearing it from the horse’s mouth!

Bees are flying in to my workshop and eating the old wax and crystallised honey on the old bee hive frames I have stacked up for cleaning.  Good thinking - v efficient of them. But a number are getting stuck and cannot find open windows they came through. It’s also cold in there so they get dopey.  I am having to collect them up and put them outside again. one of them was so dozy I gave her some sugar water on the end of a match stick. Then she pepped up. 

Talk of herons above reminds me I had said here a few weeks ago that we were stocking our enlarged pond with rainbow trout, and heron concerns were raised.  Well of course, not having seen a heron here for years, one now visits twice a day, at dawn and dusk, and our trout are as a result much depleted, but not (yet) completely wiped out.  I caught one yesterday with a worm (unsporting I know) and returned it to face the grey avian predator another day.  In other news a fox has eaten 2/3 of our trio of appleyard ducks, leaving a just a rather sad and lonely duck without sister or drake.

I saw something amusing on the weekend.

at this time of year, you will seldom see hen pheasants as they are nesting, but you’ll see a lot of the large males staking out their claims to a certain field, calling and shivering their feathers to announce they are bossing it and to attract more females.  There is a lot of this going on and the young gentlemen are so awash with hormones that they are driven to the strangest competitive behaviour.

 

i was driving behind a lady in a slow moving car on a main road near us, and she slowed to a halt for no apparent reason. But then I saw she had hit a pheasant. Never mind, too bad. It was a hen, and she was lying in the road with tail up, body squat on the ground and eyes skinning over as she snuffed it. Couple of twitches of the tail and her head went down as she yielded the inevitable. 

Then out of nowhere, quick as a jack rabbit, out charges a cock pheasant and, in her hour of need (different need) mounted and shagged her in the middle of the road. 

Heh

assume u scraped it off the road and it's now hung in the workshop maturing?

Heh. I should perhaps have been more specific. 

 

I don’t take roadkill generally and certainly not out of winter months as it gets flyblown very quickly. 

I heard your Hen au Spaff ravioli with dog piss nettle coulis was quite the local delicacy.  served with a white burgundy.

You are so new money, Wang. Nobody would ever eat game with a white burgundy. Gahhhh the horror. 

Cant be sure of the rules when it comes to spaff but defer to the experts. 

Probably a very dry Kabinet reisling or perhaps a Portuguese vino verde. Something that would truly refresh the palate and cleanse like a mouthwash.