Friday 25 April 2014

First solo hive inspection.

So, two weeks ago I carried out my first solo hive inspection. Well almost...why do I say almost?? Well John who also attended the course I went on last year came too but not to inspect the bees but to photograph them as I did the inspection so although he was present at the time he was busy behind a camera whilst I was inside the hives having a look.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about carrying out this first solo inspection so was relieved when it went smoothly. I didn't see any of the queens on this day but I know they were all there as there was evidence of eggs and larvae in all the hives and the bees were nice and relaxes.

I would also like to thank John Perring at this point for the wonderful photos that he sent me from that day which I have been able to share with you.

Hope you enjoyed looking through the hives with me.

Now I just have to hope the rest of the inspections go as smoothly as this one!!

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Sparkly Dragonfly.

Hand made dragonfly
Dragonfly sunning itself on the garden bench.  

hand crafted dragonfly
Dragonfly resting on the pebbles.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

A manic week.....

Well the last week has been absolutely manic with not much time to blog or read the blogs I love but it has been a very successful week and I have achieved plenty and spent lots of time doing things that I love.

Hubby had a week off for Easter and the kids were off to so we had plenty of family rime and went out a few times taking Trojan out to Rutland Water, Jubilee Woods and for plenty of walks across the fields playing hide and seek which he loved and was very good at once he got the hang of it!!!

So although the week has been manic it has been so in a very good way and now as I sit and type this I am content in all that I have accomplished over the last week. Even down to the dragonfly that I made for one of the teachers at school...and carrying out my first solo hive inspection. I'll show you photos of all that later...right now I will share the progress on the allotment though after all it IS an allotment blog and after such a long absence I think it is the best place to start!!

Lovely ground ready for planting brassicas.

So you all saw where I got to last time with my weeding , right??? Well since then I have accomplished so much more and feel like I am really on top of things now. The last little bit of weeding was done in this area and then all the land was prepared ready for the brasscias to be planted once they are big enough.

Peas, mange tout and sugar snaps are in.

 I got the peas put in as well as the sugar snaps and the mange tout. These have been direct sowed after being soaked for 24 hours and sticks were put in place straight away. I will be stringing the sticks this weekend ready for them to climb as they grow!!
The last of the P.S.B.
After the peas were in I had to concentrate on the other side of the plot where my brassicas were last year and where my potatoes were to be planted this year. Some will say it's too late to plant potatoes but I have come to realise that even if you are a little late you will still get a crop so I'm not worried. And besides this time last year the year was only just starting as we had snow in March!!!
Perfectly formed cauliflower

First thing was to get the little sprouting broccoli that was left up and also the cauliflowers which gave me a really nice surprise as I uncurled all the greens and found some beautifully formed and perfectly white (albeit a little small) head which I harvested with glee!!!! This is my first success with cauliflower!!
Messy brassica left overs!!

So this is about half the tangle I had to get rid of...which incidentally filled two green wheelie bins. I didn't want to out them in the composter as they have such tough stems which take a long time to compost and I will have plenty to fill them with soon enough (Now that's optimism for you!!)

So the it was on to removing weeds of the worst kind and as you can see it was really bad so Saturday was my first full day of the year spent down the allotment but it was well worth it. Not only did I get these weeds out but.....I managed to get it dug and all my potatoes planted too!!

Potato and brassica beds

 So upon leaving the allotment on Saturday it was with a total sense of satisfaction on what I had achieved...and total exhaustion too!!

It's looking pretty good...even if I do say so myself...of course you are all free to tell me how good it looks too!!!
I did notice whilst digging how hard the ground was and although there was some moisture beneath it wasn't much...not to worry though as some rain came on Sunday and then again in a big way today so the gardens have had a nice watering now...oh goody...time for the weeds to come back!!!
Oh well, I guess without the weeds I might have chance to sit and relax for a while and that would be just plain scandalous!!

Monday 14 April 2014

The Wonder of Bees with Martha Kearney

Tonight starting on BBC FOUR is a 4 part series I think you all might 'bee' interested in.

The Wonder of Bees with Martha Kearney

the bees didn't read that book!!
Who says bees only build down???
BBC Four, 8:00pm.

Martha Kearney's year gets off to a bad start when unseasonal snow in spring threatens to kill the bee colonies she keeps in her garden in Suffolk. With help from a master beekeeper Martha feeds her bees and takes one of the hives to a wildflower meadow at a neighbour's house along with two brand new hives.

She discovers the intricate hierarchy within the bee colony and learns how the organisation of the hive has become a metaphor for human society. At a London school she learns the secrets of urban bees' success even while bees in the country as a whole are in decline. The episode ends with three new hives established on a wildflower meadow, ready to start producing classic British wildflower honey

To learn more , have a sneak peak or find it on the iplayer just go here where you will also find a link to BBC Nature; Bees that is really interesting too.

Saturday 12 April 2014

Beehive frame building

Well as you all know I got some bee hives on my allotment last August but I haven't really posted much about them since then, only what I have been achieving on the bee plot. The reason I haven't said much is because over the winter months there really isn't that much to report.

Spring is here now though which means things really start 'buzzing' again and with plenty of O.S.R. (Oil Seed Rape) crops around me there is plenty for the bees to feast on. All the available food means the you have to think about where your bees are going to store it. For more stores you need more 'supers', for more 'supers' you need more frames. So of course I set to frame building.

We were shown how to do this on the course I attended last year but when it came to me having to make one myself last August it took me nearly an hour to build one...luckily I got quicker which is just as well as for my brood box and my supers to be filled I needed to make another 54 frames.

It's easier to show what you have to do in pictures......

beehive frame materials
beehive frame materials
 So first of all you need your materials to build your frames and your beeswax foundation to put in them. Thee bees don't have to have the foundation in order to create the comb but putting in the foundation means they have a lot less work to do initially and so saves them a lot of time and energy.

You can purchase frames ready made but it is more expensive and you don't get that chance to hit things hard with a where's the fun in that!! I like to get all my materials' laid out and set myself up a little assembly line as I find this the quickest and most efficient way.

So once you have everything in place you can get cracking........

beehive frame materials beehive frame building
Take what will be your top bar
and split off one side.

beehive frame materials beehive frame building
Now you have a top bar with a piece of wood
that you will put back and nail in place later

beehive frame materials beehive frame building
Take your two side bars and push into place.
Use 4 pins to secure these in place.

beehive frame materials beehive frame building
Get a sheet of wired beeswax

beehive frame materials beehive frame building
Put wired beeswax in frame bending wires,
place the strip of wood you removed back
and nail with 3 pins where wires
are folded over.

beehive frame materials beehive frame building
Now take your bottom bars and
place in groves to complete
your frame. Secure with 4 pins.

beehive frame materials beehive frame building
And there you have your completed frame.
I can now make up about 10 frames an hour.

beehive frame materials beehive frame building
Here we have one each of completed super
and deep brood frames.

Now I do realise that putting this up could pose a whole lot of questions which I would love to answer...but then again there is the possibility that none of you are really interested in which case you will ask no questions and I won't have waffled on about bees for ever and a day and bored you all to tears. So if you have questions let me know...I will be happy to do a follow up post...if not it's fine and I can be happy  knowing that I haven't sent anyone to sleep as they only had to look at a few photos!!

Thursday 10 April 2014

Nowt but weeding!!!!!

So I haven't had as much time up the allotment as I would have liked for one reason and another but I am not going to go into that...the time I did get up there though was spent on weeding...well it's got to be done!!!

allotment needs weeding
So this is what it looked like before
I started!
So with this many weeds I decided I needed to have a plan of action and tackle it in stages....first off go through and hand pull all the shallow rooted weeds.

After weeding for an hour
After an hour I was left with this...
and very cold hands!!

After this I decided to get the hand fork and dig the slightly deeper rooted weeds out. Then I got the large garden and started tackling the dandelions...the worst of them all!!

two and a half hours of weeding and it's looking promising.
Two and a half hours of weeding
and it's looking promising.
Now my hope was to get all this finished tonight so that it would be free to dog tomorrow but as usual best laid plans and all that so I didn't quite get it finished.

Three hours in and only a little left to do.
Three hours in and only a little left to do.
So why didn't I get it all finished??? Runaway chicken is the answer!! I was the only one down the allotment when I first spotted the escape artist but luckily another couple of people arrived and between us we managed to coax it back into it's pen but by this time as you can tell from the above photo I reallt had run out of light. It was my first late 'nighter' on the allotment of the year though. I didn't get home until 8:44pm...and I only live 5 minutes away
Looking good if I do say so myself!!
Looking good if I do say so myself!!
 Even though I didn't get it all quite finished I am still pleased with what I  got done. Doesn't look too bad at all when you take a photo in the dark ....from a

Fred the bean
Fred the bean

Oh and I would like to introduce you to Fred the bean plant. I think he is a French climber and was part of a classroom competition at school. I am just looking after him for the holidays...hope I don't damage him as the children have loving cared for him since he was planted. I have put him into a bigger pot and moved him to my greenhouse...I hope he's happy there!!
Oh and for those of you who read my previous post 'Name that bug?', it was indeed as Jo and Sue said in their comments a 'Bee Fly' and perfectly harmless to us, what appears to look like a sting isn't one at all, read below for a little more information on them...Oh and to have a recap on the picture!!

The Bee Fly
The Bee Fly
Apparently there are hundreds of different species of 'bee fly' but the life cycles of most species are known poorly, or not at all. They range in size from very small (2 mm in length) to very large for flies (wingspan of some 40 mm). When at rest, many species hold their wings at a characteristic "swept back" angle. Adults generally feed on nectar and pollen, some being important pollinators, often with spectacularly long proboscises (that's the long bit that looks like a sting!). In parts of East Anglia locals refer to them as 'beewhals'  thanks to their tusk-like appendages. Many Bee flies superficially resemble bees which is how they got there common name. Possibly the resemblance is aposematic, affording the adults some protection from predators.

The larval stages are predators or parasitoids of the eggs and larvae of other insects. The adult females usually deposit eggs in the vicinity of possible hosts, quite often in the burrows of beetles or wasps/solitary bees. Although insect parasitoids usually are fairly host-specific, often highly host-specific, some Bee flies are opportunistic and will attack a variety of hosts.

While the Bee fly include a large number of species in great variety, most species do not often appear in abundance, and for its size this is one of the most poorly known families of insects. There are at least 4,500 described species, and certainly thousands yet to be described.

So there you have it, a few interesting facts you may never have known about a harmless little insect which is as useful to us as the bees for pollination. I must say, I am pleased it won't bother the hives!!

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Name that Bug

Do you know what this bug is??
Do you know what this bug is??

Is that a sting? What will it do??
IS that an enormous stinger at its mouth?

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Smoking Tree.

With a few birds nests inside.
Just a harmless looking tree...
With a few birds nests inside.
they disappear in a puff of smoke!!
But when the birds go to their nests....
they disappear in a puff of smoke!!