As we are approaching the Ides of March, your beautiful bees will have already gladdened your heart with delightful forays into the world of early pollen during the midday hours of sunny winter days. Now is is vital to keep a careful eye on their honey stores to help ensure a good transition between the winter bees gradually reaching the end of their lives, and the new arrivals needing constant sustenance.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position to have to feed your bees with anything other than honey, you may wish to consult Gareth John’s recipe for preparing an invert syrup that it lighter on the bees’ digestion and energy than the usual formulations.
Here is the recipe:
1) Make a nettle tea with a good bunch of stinging nettles Urtica dioica, (half a dozen long stems) infused in a litre of boiling water for several minutes.
2) Strain off the nettles and use the tea to make sugar syrup, either 1:1 or 2:1 by volume or weight (it doesn't matter which).
3) Add a good squeeze of lemon juice while the mixture is hot - about half a lemon per litre. This starts the inversion of the sugar.
4) Allow the mix to cool to blood temp (stand the pan in cold water to speed the process) and add a good sprinkle of quick dissolving vitamin C powder (it is often sold in large tubs which are costly, but it is also good for colds) -about a rounded teaspoon per litre. Vitamin C breaks down at high temps, so cooling is important.
5) Stir vigorously to mix the vitamin C. The greenish tinge from the nettle tea should disappear and the mix will thicken noticeably as the acidic vitamin C completes the inversion process.
6) The final result should taste like a slightly tart Seville orange, not too tart or the bees will not take it. Extra vitamin C can always be added but it can't be taken away, so err under rather than over to begin with.
7) The mix keeps well as vitamin C is a natural preservative and the nettles add micronutrients.
8) Experience shows that the mixture is taken from a contact feeder even in cold weather if a drop of something good smelling is added, such as organic rose geranium.
Regarding the bees’ honey stores you were probably as surprised as we were to hear what a beekeeper with whom we recently shared air time on a little BBC feature had to say. For viewers in Britain it will be available on i-player for another week. The views uttered by a trustee of the BBKA, whilst indefensible on all counts, serve to encourage us to step up our efforts to engage with the general public about the great need to free the bees from the kind of beekeeping taught and propagated by that organisation.
We will continue to urge for a more cautious consumption of honey, and a deeper appreciation of the marvellous substance it is, prepared by the bees to assure their survival over not just one winter, but several seasons ahead.
Natural Bee Husbandry Magazine
Northern Bee Books’ new publishing venture, Natural Bee Husbandry Magazine has been received enthusiastically. We are proud to be involved with this exciting venture that is already contributing greatly to taking the vital message of bee-centered beekeeping into the world. So far, close to a thousand people have subscribed, and if you’re not yet amongst them, please read some reviews here and consider supporting the magazine by a subscription for yourself or a friend.
We feel privileged to be part of that growing network of worldwide connections, and are very heartened to see a great many signs that the Bee’s message of wholeness is affecting people, sometimes in profound ways, as they discover new ways of relating to the Bee and the wider world.
New Bee Health and Science Pages
Recent research into the effects of conventional beekeeping practice paints a vivid picture of the disruption and damage caused to the bees by beekeepers, and points unequivocally to the urgent need for a general adoption of bee-centered beekeeping practice.
Bee health, vitality and long term resilience - these are at the core of our endeavours, and we hope that you find our new health page pertaining to bee health to be useful. In addition, we are now presenting all the research that pertains to the principles of natural beekeeping on one dedicated and searchable science page. Our trustees direct much effort at making our website a rich resource, capable of supporting anyone in search of enlightened approaches to beekeeping and we extend our thanks to David Heaf who collated the material on the science page.
From our earliest beginnings our advocacy has emphasised the importance of natural reproduction by swarming, of bees building their own combs, of hives that support the bees’ efforts at warmth maintenance and generally of bees leading a largely undisturbed life free from undue interference and others stresses, such as overharvesting and treatments of any kind. We have been encouraged in this stance not only by our bees’ unmistakable responses, but also by our many supporters who have shown their appreciation in word and deed.
It is certainly gratifying that so much recent science also supports and endorses the bee husbandry principles we have encouraged for so long. Scientific validation may well help many a beekeeper decide to change their practices. What we really hope for is that a deep understanding of the wholeness of the Bien - that wisdom-filled entity that guides and directs all the processes of the hive - will complement in time what the intellect can grasp from scientific findings. Only then will the culture of beekeeping change profoundly.
Sun Hive Workshop
We are delighted to announce that our trustee Rachel Hanney will be offering a workshop for sunhive making this spring at the beautiful location of Hauser and Wirth in Somerset. Places are limited, so if you are interested, decide soon. On the 22nd April Hauser and Wirth are offering a Day of the Bee, in which we are delighted to participate; see more details here.
Sometimes one is fortunate enough to come across a colony of bees living in the wild, high up in a tree cavity, or some other unexpected place. Such encounters can touch us deeply, indeed for many it is a first encounter with the reality that honey bees naturally live in trees.
In the hope of encouraging many more such wondrous meetings between human beings and bees that live as nature intended, we are delighted to announce a new initiative: Our international Photographic Competition to celebrate honeybees living in the wild has now been launched. We would be very grateful if you shared the details of it with all your nature-loving friends and drew attention to it on any social media you’re engaged with. We have been greatly inspired by Thomas D. Seeley’s research into wild bees, and hope that many will take up the wonderful past time he encourages in his very engagingly written Book Following the Wild Bees.
Rewilding the Honey Bee
There is no doubt that facilitating honeybee colonies to establish in places of their choice will have an important part to play in creating crucial reservoirs of undisturbed populations that are capable, over a period of time, to recover their wild genetics. It is very encouraging to us that more and more people come forward with a clear wish to make their land or garden available as a dwelling place for honey bees, with no expectation of a personal return. To achieve lasting changes for the health and resilience of honeybees many more need to be afforded the opportunity to nest in places of their choice, and many such places, such as the UK's first tree hive