Wednesday 19 January 2011

Bees and allotments

I just spotted a pot about this on Chris Slade's Bee Blog .

I've had bees on my plot for ten years, mostly illegally. Originally, Birmingham allowed a couple of hives on a plot, but there was a row about someone keeping very bad-tempered bees on my site, and it caused such a ruckus they were banned. It was a long time ago now, and the rule was recently relaxed. You're still supposed to check with the Allotments Department.

My view is that it shouldn't be a problem, as long as common sense is applied. In any situation with close neighbours, temper should be a priority. Most sites are open, and people are likely to be working or passing within a few yards, in full view of the bees. I have hedges, which makes a lot of difference, but there's still no excuse for nasty bees. Low swarming should be a major consideration as well; swarms may do no harm, but they do frighten people. They make extra work for the beekeeper as well.

Then not too many hives should be kept. I can see a potential problem on some of the sites in London, where plots are about the size of a tablecloth, and in this case the answer might be to set aside a quiet corner of the site rather than having hives on individual plots. At the other end of the scale, my plot is very large, with six-foot hedges, and has more scope than most. A couple of hives on the average open plot is probably about right.

In ten years, I've only had objections to my hives once, and that was from someone who was openly trying to drive me off the site. I had a letter from the Allotments Department years ago, pointing out that bees weren't allowed, and asking me to remove them 'as soon as possible'. Somehow or other, it never became possible, and as the letter was never followed up, the bees were never removed. I had the impression at the time that they weren't very interested! Apart from that one incident, everyone has always been quite supportive.

Tuesday 18 January 2011


I've just had £25 worth of free seeds from this online company for putting a link to their site on here. I discovered them just before Christmas, and got a small order very fast, right in the middle of the Christmas rush.

Postage is free, prices are excellent. Prive per packet is under £1, at least in most cases, and this leads to my one criticism. The quantity of seed varies wildly with the variety, no doubt reflecting seed prices. Some seed - hybrid Asparagus, for instance - is extremely expensive. leading to packets with two seeds. Very few places stock this seed, so I wonder, forstly, whether it's worth it, and secondly, whther they'd have done better to make an exception and have a more expensive packet with, say, ten or a dozen seeds.

Overall, though, an excellent little firm, and one which seems very responsive to Emails.

Thursday 13 January 2011

Oxalic Acid Treatment

A couple of days ago, I mentioned to my neighbour on the allotment that I have trouble managing the tops of the hedges. I got there today to find that he's done the whole length of it down his side. That's the first time in eleven years that a neighbour has taken the initiative and cut the hedge! I've still got the other side to do, but it's on the lower side, so the worst half is done for me.

I've just given an oxalic acid treatment (for mites) to my hives. It involves mixing up 7.5g of oxalic, and 100g each of water and sugar - that's enough for my hives, obviously the quantities can be altered appropriately if necessary - and squirting 5ml over each seam (between combs) containing bees.

Both are alive, and looking healthy so far. They're a bit light so I'll give them both some candy in a few days. One has a gigantic cluster filling the entire box, and was flying. A colony like this will build up quickly, and probably give a good honey crop in a good summer. They eat themselves out of house and home though, need a lot of beekeeper support over winter, and may eat as much as they bring in in a bad summer. They may well be swarmy as well. The other has a much smaller cluster on five frames, occupying about 1/4 of the area of the first, and wasn't flying at all. That's much more what I want, especially given that it arrived with two queens, mother and daughter. This is a native bee characteristic, associated with strains which swarm less often. It'll also eat less over winter, and need less support from me. After this winter, it probably won't need any.

So I'll requeen the first colony as soon as I've got a reasonable number of drones, and keep the queen in the second for another year at least. That's assuming they both survive that long!