Monday, June 27, 2011


June has been quite an unsettled month here in terms of weather - we've had scorching heat and very cold downpours! So it hasn't been the best month for the bees, especially as it is the June gap, but our hives are all doing well fortunately.

This post is a catch-up session about our latest antics and a celebration of the English countryside in summer :)

To start with I should mention a fantastic microscopy workshop that my beekeeper's association organised at the beginning of the month. It was a really excellent day and we were led through the processes of identifying acarine and nosema by our regional bee inspector and two experts from the National Bee Unit - long way to come! It was a fantastic day. I learned to dissect bees in order to check for acarine - a delicate operation that involved removing the head, front legs and 'collar' of a dead bea to reveal its trachea. I managed to get a couple of good dissections and although I'm not sure how often I will have to use this skill I learned such a lot about the anatomy of the honey bee and the beauty of its construction. We also mashed bees up to release their stomach juices, from which we could detect nosema. Using the compound microscopes for this let us see not only the nosema but also some beautiful pollens! I think I was able to tell the very subtle difference between nosema apis and nosema ceranae at one point, although of course it could have been my imagination. Either way, a fascinating exploration of the honey bee and I learned s much about good disease management also. I now have a taste for microscopy, and have ordered a couple of books on the subject...who knows, maybe one day I'll get my microscopy certificate?

Aside from the bees, the countryside has been absolutely stunning this year. Below are some pictures of a poppy field and a field of what I think is flax, both near our apiary site and both absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful, the photographs hardly doing them justice.

A quick flit to the garden centre revealed some beautiful (and edible!) fuschias.

And finally, I took the dog on one of my favourite walks and was absolutely struck by the beauty of nature that day. The poor dog felt somewhat neglected as I looked around me carefully, trying to look at the landscape from a Permaculture perspective. I could see that the hedgerows and edges of the woodland are naturally scalloped, a design feature that permaculturists often use on borders, and I was amazed that nature just does it naturally! Also the beauty of the chalk stream we visited was amazing. It was alive with tiny shrimp-like creatures and amazingly near to the water the forget-me-nots were still in flower, even when they have finished everywhere else! They made a very picturesque tangle with the watermint. The field around us was alive with insects and other life: a spider who had build her web in a curl in an iris leaf; dusty-brown butterflies and all different species of bees feeding off the drifts of clover; flies and hoverflies in unbelievable colours; slugs and snails in an array of shades from speckly green to dark, shiny black; mole hills; ladybirds - native ones! - feeding off clusters of aphids on the thistles; grasshoppers of every shape and size; an ant colony who had colonised an old mole hill; and every type of grass and ground-cover imagineable. The complexity of this eco-system was just stunning and what's more, it was so beautiful and tranquil.