Friday, 20 July 2012

Great Car Reg Plate!

I was walking in Balham London, just dropped off a delivery order of HayfeGUARD Local Honey to As Nature Intended when my eye caught this car registration plate. I stopped dead and grabbed my mobile to take a photo. The driver looked worried as I did this. I popped over and told him I work for The Hive Honey Shop in Clapham, family run honey shop and loved his licence plate. He smiled broadly and I invited him to drop by for a sample of our local honeys.

I was blocking traffic, cars were honking and he smiled again then buzzed away!
photo copyright 2012 ©-The Hive Honey Shop

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Urban Beekeeping- Time to keep your own honeybees!

There has never been a better time to keep your own honeybees and inner city sites are the best! Why? There are more flowers per square mile within city areas as opposed to the the countryside which is made up mostly of grass meadows, fairly useless to honeybees. To give you an idea, the average countryside beehive can gather approx. 50 jars of honey per year, where as a city beehive can collect approx. 70-100 jars per year. More flowers close by means more honey!
So how to start. Begin by gathering as much information as possible on the subject. Read several books, watch DVDs, explore the internet and then sign up for a beekeeping course. The Hive Honey Shop in Battersea run weekend Beginner Beekeeping Courses from their bee farm in Surrey. What makes this course so unique and sought after is each student gets the opportunity to open a beehive and handle live honeybees after the Saturday theoretical module session. Reading about it is one thing, practical hands on learning is always more beneficial.
So now you know all about keeping bees, where do you get them from and where do you keep them in a city? There are many professional bee breeders, but even a greater number of rogue amateur beekeepers passing themselves off as ‘bee breeders’. Since the decline in honeybees and a surge in public interest, many people have decided to get involved by keeping their own bees thus helping to maintain our bee population. However as a result in the rise of beekeeping interest, so has there been a rise in those wanting to get in on the act and profit quick. I have never in my 48 years of beekeeping seen so many people offering bees for sale. Where have they come from? Just hobbies beekeepers bumbling along selling unknown swarms or their own mixed mongrel breeds.
Bee breeding is a skillful art and the result of careful selective breeding will produce passive, gentle to handle, disease free, good honey gathering bees. My advise is scrutinise the credibility of anyone offering bees for sell.  Just because they have been beekeeping for a million years does not mean they are qualified or selling pedigree bees. Yes just like any animal breeding program, breed selection is important and bees are no different. Left to their own devises to free mate they can produce some very aggressive bees, the last thing you need when keeping bees in a tiny terraced garden. This brings me to- where do you put them?
The lovely thing about keeping bees is you do not need a big space for them. Bees can fly a distance radius as great as three miles to find nectar, in a city far less. They free fly as they wish so the surrounding area need not be large. You just need about 2 meters distance around your beehive to work and of course free access for the bees to world outside. We keep them on balconies, roof tops, parks, allotments, factory car parks, the attic with a widow open to name but a few!

Now many hotels and restaurants in London have beehives on their roof tops gather honey with great success. James our head beekeeper here at The Hive Honey Shop was asked to set up beehives at St James’s Palace for HRH the Prince of Wales. They now have two cottage beehives in the grounds that are gathering the most amazing collection of nectars from all the annual and perennial flowers within Buckingham Palace and the Mall.

Recently the press published silly articals suggesting that there are too many people keeping bees in the citys so there will be little food for the bees-nonsence! There are PLENTY of flowers and there is more than enough room for hunderds of new hives. 
There is a great deal of enjoyment to be gained from keeping your own honeybees, but do not enter this art lightly. Bees require your complete commitment, help and protection. Even though they are wild insects, they no longer are able to cope on their own. So the idea of ‘let them alone beekeeping ‘ is not an option. But for all the hard work and promise of tons of golden nectar, the real lasting affect you will take away will be a new found admiration, love and respect of these little creatures that will stimulate your imagination as you never dreamed possible.
for more information about buying honeybee colonies, equipment and courses contact:
The Hive Honey Shop
93 Northcote Road
London SW11 6PL
Tel: 020 7924 6233

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Feed your bees if necessary! March a dangerous time.

March is a dangerous time of year for bees. It really is the make of break time for many hives. Healthy lively bees can dropped dead unexpectedly from one day to the next. One main issue is lack of food.

The months of March-April are unpredictable. We get warm days followed by wet cold days. These weather spikes really disturb honeybee development. The workers feed the queen in times of warm weather to promote her egg laying and the development of new workers. However if the following days and weeks are then cold and wet all these new bees need extra food, so we have lots of hungry bees yet nectar production among the plants have shut down due to the bad weather.

I had an angry reader contact me years ago concerned to read that bees can starve having little stores and wondered if we beekeepers were to blame for removing honey.

I believe loving, caring, smart beekeepers will always but their bees before honey. In other words, we make sure never to remove honey that would put the bees at risk. In many cases your bees will have plenty of stored honey that you left them, but because it is so cold outside they are unable to break their warm cluster and journey up into the honey boxes above. They can starve to death while the boxes above are overflowing with honey.

A scene such as this breaks my heart and in many cases can be avoided with a little help from the beekeeper.

So remember nature is cruel if we do not intervene. I am of the belief that I will get involved if the bees need a helping hand, rather than stand back and watch them die. Some naturalists believe that by providing an unnatural food source such as sugar is wrong. I do not hold such a cold view as bees are always thankful for a little help, which will in turn benefit the colony and the over all health and vitality of the colony.

So what can we do?

Well firstly never feed bees during a honey flow- this is a BIG no no! Only feed bees in the autumn, winter or early spring. These are the times they can use the help when no abundance of nectar is naturally available. Buy a slab of bee fondant and wrap it in cling film to keep it fresh, clean and moist. Cut open a 5cm seam in the middle of the bag to expose the fondant and invert it over the coverboard holes. If possible the coverboard should be directly over the brood box. Use a super to add a space before placing the roof back on. If you have stored honey for your bees in supers, place them somewhere safe until the weather warms up or they need the extra room. This exercise is to provide a ready food source as close to the bee cluster as possible during cold weather. Remember, though there may be flowers blooming, those flowers can not produce nectar in cold, wet, windy conditions. They look great, but are of little use to bees.

So now your bees are only centimeters away from the food source and will find it easy to consume this moist sugar supplement before the new nectar crop begins. We put one bag on each hive Christmas day without fail to say thanks you- if they need it, they will use it, if not they will leave it alone. Do not feed them sugar syrup. This is too difficult for them to metabolise in cold weather.

Here are a few photos of the bees working our winter fondant bags. If you know a beekeeper pass this blog link on to them. It could help save a hive!

photo copyright 2012 ©-The Hive Honey Shop

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

2010 Bees are alive and well, with the same queen!

On 8 Feb 2012, at 11:24, Iain wrote:

Hi James,
I am pleased to say that the bees that you sold me back in the spring of 2010 are alive and well, with the same queen!
Just thought you might like to know.

All the best



Hi Iain

Great to hear- no doubt due to your compassionate beekeeping! Well done!

Funny, normally when I hear back from beekeepers who I sold bees, they fall into two categories:

1- If they are alive and well-they blame themselves.

2- If they die -they blame me!

LOL- Good job! Make sure they have bee fondant over the coverboard holes now. It's a nice insurance if they need a bit of extra food then it's there for them.

Best wishes for a Healthy 2012 Beekeeping Season!

Kind regards
James & his bees

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Happy New Year!!!- January Beekeeping Maintenance Tips.

What a wet start to the year! But let's not dwell on that. Time to have a quick peek at your hives to see they are still weather/water tight. Last night there were gail force winds and this could blow hive roofs off. So a quick apiary site inspection is in order.

Hive Food?
We always give each of our beehives a Christmas gift of a block of honey/sugar fondant. This we do the week of Christmas (hope the bees don't open it till Christmas)! It's a little thank you for all their hard work for the past year and also a safeguard in case a colony is short of food supplies. Better safe than sorry. If they don't need it they will just leave it along. Never feed sugar syrup during the winter. Liquid sugar is far too difficult for bees to metabolise in cold temperatures and can lead to bee tummy upsets and dysentery.

Hive Entrance?
Check the hive entrance for any blockage. The naturally high mortality rate among bees in the autumn can mean with so many bees dying within the hive, the house bees find it difficult to clear them all out. This build up can create a complete blockage of the hive entrance. Your bees can suffocate or water vapour build up occurs and invites mould and unhygienic conditions to spread within the hive. It's just not bee cosy!

Hive Secure?
Vandals are the prime reason to keep your hives 'out of sight-out of mind' At this time of year your hive will be very visual as hedges and trees die back exposing the once well hidden beehive. So now is the time to disguise your beehive. Camouflage it as best you can. In many of our out apiaries we have two sets of beehives, a- Summer Hives, painted white, b-Winter Hives, stained cedar brown. So in the winter not only are our hives less visual, but the stain allows the wood to breath and reduces water vapour build up within the wood and inside the hive.

Those were just a few January Beekeeping Maintenance Tips. BTW- Don't open your hive for an inspection in the winter. Any major disturbance to a hive now until spring can be very detrimental to bee colony health. So keep animals well away. Try not to bump, knock of jolt a hive. Do not attempt to move a beehive during winter. The bees will use their energy to break their winter cluster to find out what is going on. This unnecessarily uses up their food stores and their limited remaining life span.

photo copyright 2012 ©-The Hive Honey Shop