Friday, February 25, 2011

Another sure sign of spring...

Pabi Bach took these pictures this evening. The frogs have been singing very loudly tonight...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More Spring Stuff including Bees

The viburnum bush that I photographed for the last post is now well and truly in flower. It's one of my favourite plants because it flowers so early and really heralds the end of winter. Also it has the most beautiful smell in the world, and is very pretty. And I love the fact that the blossom comes out before the leaves do! Here it is as it was when I photographed it earlier today.

Apart from this and the other little spring things I couldn't help but stick in above, the bees are being prepped for another year. I haven't been to see them yet, but Dad has. There have been a couple of warm sunny days recently when other people we know have seen their bees flying, but we haven't been to see ours on a warm sunny day yet. Therefore we haven't opened them up yet - still way too cold - but Dad has checked on all 3 hives. One is looking very fragile, and he says that it probably won't make it as it is so weak. He still fed it though, so they have a chance. The other two however - a nuc and a full OSB - are thriving!! Apparently they have wintered very well and are still very populous colonies! All three hives have had some runny syrup and some commercial pollen patty, and hopefully these will give them a really strong start to the season.

We have also splashed out on a new style of feeder that we think might work (we haven't yet found one that suits both bees and humans!) and a queen rearing it promises to be an exciting year.

But even more exciting is the fact that a while ago we went to a meeting with some other members of our beekeeping assoc to discuss natural beekeeping. It's really interesting to contrast different beekeeping methods, and some members of our association are even using Warre hives now. I'm very interested in all this. I reckon that the bees have been around for 6 million years doing fine, and it's only been the last century or so that they've started having real problems, i.e. with human intervention and our delightful inventions of pesticides, the rise of monocultures, etc. Coincidence? Probably not.

It was a really enjoyable little meeting, although I was quite surprised by the air of rebellion - it felt almost as if we were meeting in an underground bunker discussing a very embarrassing problem or a secret outlawed religion, which would be frowned on by senior beekeepers who practice traditional beekeeping! I learned such a lot though. We were discussing how Warre and OSB hives work, and comparing them to more traditional hives and methods of beekeeping, as well as the importance of temperature and air flow in a hive, and colony balance (worker:drone ratio, e.g). But what most interested me was the fact that different plants give bees different pollens and carbohydrates. This seems like common sense, but I had never thought of it before. So bees need a varied diet, just like us humans. No wonder beekeepers in America who do the almond crop are having so much trouble with supposed-CCD - their colonies are just not getting the right nutrition.

More evidence to support my suspicion of monocultures. Everywhere I look, particularly at this time of year, there is evidence that nature doesn't support monocultures. Everything is mixed up, and as permaculturists would argue, although it looks like a mess to us, it isn't to nature. Time maybe to start planning my horticultural purchases/indulgences for this year. I still haven't got my Nepalese raspberry... ;)