Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Introduction to beekeeping course

 Saturday was the first time I got close to bees. And I loved it.

Bees in and out of the kids hive - a national dedicated to the Buzz Club - the kids bee club.

I was looking forward to this course since the moment I booked it a few weeks ago. Keeping bees is something I don't know a great deal about but has always interested me. There's something about it that really appeals to me, maybe it's a calling! Growing your own fruit and veg is one thing, but to help a colony of bees keep going throughout the year in order to harvest an annual bounty of honey is something a bit different. 

Neighbours of mine have kept bees and I enjoyed eating the honey they sold me. This year I wanted to take a step closer towards keeping my own and to do that I got myself a place on the introduction course run by my local group; The Central Sussex Beekeepers Association (CSBKA).

The CSBKA Apiary
Smoker and 3 of the 15 hives in the apiary. 
The first half of the day was spent in Horsham going through some of the theory; looking at the bee ecology, the beekeepers year and some of the costs involved. The second half was spent at the apiary in Pease Pottage looking at hives, how to put them together and, the best bit, getting up close and personal with the bees!

Looking at the inside of a 'National' hive.
The different types of hive were interesting, especially the differences between the insides of the traditional types like the National/WBC and the more funky looking (for a beehive) Top Bar hives. We were shown a couple of hives made from polystyrene but they were never an option for me. I don't like the idea of a hive made from polystyrene, it doesn't seem right. And the experienced beekeeper that was showing us our apiarian options said that woodpeckers have been known to peck straight through the walls and destroy the colony inside. So not an ideal choice for me as there are lots of them where I live, and as much as I enjoy feeding them, they can keep to the peanuts.

Two polystyrene hives wither side of a national hive. The poly on the left is a nuc.

My favourite of the hives was the WBC - invented by William Broughton Carr. It's the iconic style that if you were to ask someone to draw a beehive or imagine one, the WBC would be it. I also like the fact that its double walled so it's insulated better in the winter.

A WBC hive - my favourite!

Looking inside a top bar hive

What next? I definitely want to keep bees so I'll be heading down to the apiary on Saturday mornings to get my skills and knowledge up. Who knows, maybe I'll have bees this time next year? 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Thursday Moth Trap & Sightings

Wednesday afternoon, I decided to set the moth trap for the first time this year. Thursday morning I was glad I had. 11 Oak Beauty moths were waiting in the trap as well as some others.

Common Quaker

Early Grey
Hebrew Character

During the day I was out and about in a newly coppiced area of woodland and I was able to spot my first proper view of a Peacock, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell butterfly.

Coppiced area


Small Tortoiseshell

It's always great when you have the opportunity to have a look around a coppiced woodland the year after you did the work. Particularly in this area as the transformation of habitat has been so dramatic. What was previously dark and overgrown has become open, sun-lit and ready for new growth; scrub being the ultimate habitat of aim. In amongst the young and low-lying vegetation were the reptiles of the day: Common Lizard and two Grass Snakes! 

Common Lizard

Grass Snake
The larger of the two grass snakes was clearly female based on the size of the snake. I'm presuming that the much smaller snake on the left of the photo (below) hibernated with the large female. 

Right! That's it! I've managed two posts in one week. Must be time for a lie-down! Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Sightings from the week before..

To say it's been a while since my last post would be an understatement, but I'm determined this year to make it a regular thing. Not too much writing and mostly photos, that the deal.

Tawny Owl Pellet showing bones of small mammals and invertebrate exoskeleton

Honeysuckle coming into leaf

 The interesting find was the frogspawn on a fallen tree, about one metre above ground level and quite a distance from the nearest pond or stream. According to this article, and the guys at Devon Biodiversity Record Centre its due to predation.

Frogs (and toads) have plenty of predators just waiting to devour them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. However they don't eat the ovaries as inside this part of the anatomy are the eggs or spawn which expand when wet. You don't want that in your stomach! I've not come across it before.
Frogspawn up a tree?!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Cockchafer beetle

Cockchafer Beetle Melolontha Melolontha

Caught this guy whilst moth trapping. It's surprising just how big they are when you see them up close. Clumsily these guys often fly into lit windows at night and if you're lucky you can see them flying around the garden in the evenings from May-July.