April 24, 2017

Our bees and other pollinators and more widely, the animals and plants in our countryside know nothing of the June 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. They don’t know that it took place nor the outcome, nor the ongoing ramifications, arguments, hopes and fears. Nonetheless there may be implications for wildlife and beekeepers.

The drivers of change will almost certainly be found in the interplay between:

  •  Changes to food and farming policy as the UK finds its way starting with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and moving to something else of our own choosing

  • Environmental Regulation including responses to pollution and climate change

  • Farmer and landowner attitudes, fears and ambitions

  • Agricultural economics including cost of inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides due to world prices and UK exchange rate

  • Labour availability

  • Food policy and the power exerted by food manufacturers and supermarkets

  • Changes in th...

March 22, 2017

I am writing this on the International Day of Forests.

Trees have always fascinated me. Their variety of form, their longevity, the way in which they give shape to our landscapes, particularly in the East of England where hills are modest, mountains are absent and throughout the year it is the trees that mark the season particularly in spring and autumn.

Trees have shaped our architecture, provided materials for much of our furniture and timber is often the ‘canvas’ for decorative carving.

Latterly we have become aware of the symbiosis between trees and mycorrhizal fungi, the complex underground network that physically connects trees with their offspring and their peers – and even between species. The role of trees in creating and supporting biodiversity is breathtaking. They do have a finite life span and need our care and attention.

While contemplating trees and watching my bees out and about in the spring weather I wondered if I could add anything to the familiar truth t...

August 25, 2016

Feral Bees – what are they?
They are normal honeybees that at some point have swarmed and taken up residence in a hollow tree, a cavity wall, a chimney, a soffit or other amenable place. Amenable place meaning it is of suitable size (typically > 3 cubic feet / 80 litres), unaffected by overheating or ingress of water, preferably a few metres above ground. They may be the result of an earlier feral colony that swarmed. If the comments below are correct, then a feral colony that survives long enough to generate a swarm may be a rare thing. I spoke recently with a local beekeeper that was called to assist with an established wild colony that had left its home in an old tree in a public area.
What happens to feral colonies?
The following comment is an extract from The Kent Beekeepers’ website: From 1994 in South East England conditions have changed, there are thousands of colonies fewer, the Environment is adversely affected, an Asiatic mite, varroa destructor is here,...

June 30, 2016

Marking our bees – what might it reveal?
Bear with me on this; I am not talking about traditional methods and practices for marking Queens. That has all been rehearsed, explained and justified by beekeepers that are far, far more knowledgeable and experienced than me.
My thoughts on the subject of this piece have been shaped by a personal set of interests and experiences.
1.  For more than five years I championed a group, based in and around Cambridge but whose membership extended beyond. I also had the privilege to visit academics, health specialists, companies and inventors in USA and Canada.
This included addressing and chairing meetings and conferences to support and promote the use of a particular technology – wireless. My field of interest is the application of wireless and computer technologies to monitoring, managing and enhancing human health and wellbeing. This is a very diverse field and includes monitoring soldiers in battle field situations, managing chronic health co...

May 1, 2015

Organic Beekeeping

My personal motivation for offering this particular Bee-lines piece arises from my interest in food and agriculture. For some years I have been interested, read widely and studied issues related to national and International food production, nutrition and the problems encountered by the overfed and undernourished in our world. As a chemist and environmentalist I have worried about agrochemicals and loss of biodiversity for six decades. So naturally at various times my interest has been aroused by the organic food movement. I make no claims about being a convert but I try to shop and eat with a raised awareness and take my opportunities where and when I can.

So as a beekeeper who sells honey (in a good year), I always look at other peoples local offerings on the farm shop and deli shelves. I have wondered about organic honey and organic beekeeping – not with any intention of practising it myself –knowing how much effort goes into organic food production I imagined tha...

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