Allotments are best for supporting bees, citizen science project finds


Allotments are better than parks or roadsides for bees, a leading bee expert has said, following the results of the first Great British Bee Count.

Bumble bee expert professor Dave Goulson said that parks and roadsides need improving, following a citizen science project in which more than 23,000 people around the UK used a free smart phone app to log their sightings of 832,000 bees over 12 weeks.

The bee spotters saw an average of 12 in allotments compared to 10 in the countryside, eight in the garden, seven in parks and four by roads.

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Yellow and black bumblebees were the most spotted type of bee in all regions with 304,857 sightings and honey bees were the second most-seen in all regions with 193,837 sightings. Of these 42 per cent were seen in rural areas, 30 per cent in suburbs and 28 per cent in urban areas.

Goulson, author of A Sting In the Tale, said: “This year’s Great British Bee Count highlights the importance of allotments in providing essential habitat for the bees that pollinate all those tasty home-grown fruit and veg – and shows that parks and road verges could be a lot better for bees, with less mowing and more wildflowers.”

The Great British Bee Count was a joint project by B&Q, Friends of the Earth and Buglife. Campaigners have called for the Government’s national strategy to protect bees and pollinators – due this autumn – to support farmers to cut pesticide use and create more bee-friendly habitat in public spaces and new developments.

Scientists warn that the overall picture for British bees is one of serious decline, with 71 of 267 species under threat and more than 20 already extinct, and stress the importance of maintaining a wide diversity of bees in order to cross-pollinate many fruits and vegetables.

Experts advise planting and protecting ivy which provides a food source going into the winter and plant perennials, bulbs and shrubs to ensure a food source for spring.


Good autumn has kept bees busy collecting pollen

The very good weather in October has given honey bees plenty of opportunity to collect pollen and nectar from any plants still in bloom. Dahlia, cosmos and ivy in the garden are being exploited to the full. Viburnum ‘Dawn’ is in full flower and its scent can be detected from more than 10m away which means that the honey bee has no problem in finding it,



The large amounts of pollen indicates that the queen is laying. Any colony in the apiary which is not flying vigorously should be investigated even at this late stage in the season, especially as mid-day temperatures are 12°C plus. It may be that it is too small to survive the winter. If the small colony is free of disease, its queen should be removed and then it is united with a strong colony.

The winter cluster needs to be large enough to function as a means of preserving heat during the coldest nights of winter.

“The honey has been extracted from the supers and they have to be stored safely for the winter. There will be a residue of honey in the cells and a decision has to be made as to the best way to deal with this. Some beekeepers will put the supers out in the open air and allow the bees to ‘rob’ the honey and carry it back to their hives.

This is bad practice as it encourages the bees to start robbing the weaker hives in the apiary and any disease present will be spread to all the others.

A second method is to mark each super as to which hive they came from as they are removed during the harvest and put them back on their own hives for the bees to help themselves. This can still encourage robbing. Thirdly, the supers can be stored ‘wet’, that is with the remains of the honey still in the cells.

To do this, they must be stacked so that bees, wasps and mice etc. are not able to gain access to the supers or, indeed, to detect them by the aroma of the honey.

Sheets of newspaper can be placed between each pair but this is not strictly necessary. It is thought that this will discourage the infiltration of wax moth.

Supers stored wet will smell of fermented honey in the spring when they are needed. When put on the hive the bees will move up readily to clean up the cells.

where the wax moth larvae feed on the pupal skins and faecal matter which the bee brood leave behind when they hatch.

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The wax moth larvae will eat their way through the wax and destroy it completely. Thus any brood frames must be treated differently from the super frames. Brood frames worth saving and not in use should be fumigated using 100ml of 80% acetic acid per one brood box. The method is to place the brood box plus its frames in a very large plastic garbage bag, having first coated any metal parts with petroleum jelly (to prevent corrosion). Place an absorbent pad on top of the frames and pour on the acetic acid.

This must be done with great care as the acid is very strong. Wear plastic gloves and a face mask, taking care not to allow fumes to get in the eyes or splashes on the skin.

The acetic acid will vaporise and the vapour will fall through the frames, killing wax moth, its eggs and larvae, as well as nosema spores. Other brood boxes can be placed on top and the process repeated. Tie the bag up so that fumes cannot escape, place in a well- ventilated spot and leave for one week.

Open the bag and only use the equipment after about three weeks when the vapour has dissipated. This method may also be used for any supers from colonies with nosema as acetic acid does not affect the honey.

It is encouraging for beekeepers to see newspaper coverage of the emphasis on preserving wild flower meadows. Bees need a variety of pollens in their diet as not all pollens contain all the nutrients which they require for good health.

If they can access more diversity of forage in wild flower meadows, it will improve their chances of survival in an ever more threatening environment.

The pollination which honey bees and other insects provide is underestimated by many people. Not only do they improve fruit crops in our gardens and orchards but they also increase the yields of seeds and fruits which many wild animals depend on during winter months. The attached photographs show some of the plants which benefit, elderberries close to the apiary, haws and ivy flowers and berries which pigeons especially love.

“More wild flowers will also add to the flavour of the honey which they will produce. Honey is renowned for its taste which changes from year to year depending on the forage available and the weather enabling the bees to collect it. We are very fortunate in being almost totally dependent on what nature provides rather than large scale crops such as canola or field beans.”


Clover comeback? ‘Bee lawns’ gaining favour

Turf grass may be an attractive ground cover for home owners but it doesn’t hold much appeal for pollinators.

Add some broadleaf plants with flowers to the mix, however, and it’s a different story: great forage for the birds and the bees. Lower maintenance, too.meadow

“Bee lawns aren’t 100 percent flowers. They have some grass included,” said Mary Meyer, an extension horticulturist and professor with the University of Minnesota. “While bees don’t use grass, humans do. Most flowers, if you start walking on them, will die. Clover will tolerate a bit of foot traffic.”

Nitrogen-rich Dutch white clover generally is considered the best companion to cool-season lawn grasses when the objective is attracting pollinators, said Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director for The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in Portland, Oregon. “You can mow it and keep it relatively tame in a lawn, and bees love it,” Vaughan said. “The good thing about Dutch white clover is that it is good (to grow) across most of the U.S.”

There was a time when many turf seed mixes included clover. Then came the rise of lawn purity: Yards were designed to look like the manicured greens on a golf course. All grass. No broadleaf plants.

These formalized landscapes were attractive but contained little food value for foraging honeybees.Adopt-A-Hive

Now that clean lawn ethic is giving way to herb and vegetable gardens, a desire for minimal yard maintenance and concerns about steep declines in pollinating insects. People are opting for smaller lawns, blended lawns or no lawns.

“The trend is urban meadows, where homeowners take out their lawns and replace them with diverse wildflowers that can get tall and rangy at the end of the season,” Vaughan said. “But a nicely mown border around the outside keeps them looking tidy. Add a sign and people know you’re doing it on purpose. Mow in the fall and the whole lawn is cleaned up nicely.”

Other flowering broadleaf plants include dandelions (which bloom early when little else is flowering), lamium (shade-tolerant) and thyme.

Some property owners convert less visible sections of their yards into bio-diverse bee lawns.

“Reserve some chunks,” Meyer said. “Devote your back lawn to a bee lawn and leave your front lawn traditional turf — the part that your neighbors and passing traffic see.”

“For people who still want that green carpet look, try it with clover,” Meyer said.

Are flowering broadleafs invasive weeds or beneficial grass companions? It depends on your aesthetics. But no matter how they’re viewed, they require less care and less fertilizing, and are more resilient to drought and pests than traditional turf grass.

“I’ve seen some beautiful mats of thyme that are mowed and attract many, many bees,” Vaughan said. “Small varieties of yarrow are OK, but don’t attract a lot of bees. Other pollinators come to the yarrow.”

University of Minnesota researchers are trying to come up with pollinator lawn-seed combinations that use native plant species — low-growing, non-invasive varieties that can take a lot of abuse.

“That’s a heavy order,” Meyer said, “but they’re doing trials. Next year they’ll be planting demo plants to see how they flower and survive.”

North Tyneside Council gets effort underway to protect and preserve bees

Bees in North Tyneside will enjoy a boost thanks to a new project. Recent decades have seen a decline in the number of bees across the country. But now North Tyneside Council has made a commitment to ensure the future of the borough’s most busy insects.


From the creation of bee habitats, the introduction of hives in a number of parks, to resident awareness workshops and education in schools, the council has put together a plan to increase and conserve bees in the area.

Councillor John Stirling, cabinet member for Sustainable Development, said: “People don’t often appreciate just how important bees are to us – honeybees, for example, are vital to our food chain. It’s estimated that one third of our food is pollinated by the insects, so the decline is worrying.

“Garden plants and agricultural crops need bees to bring about pollination and some rely entirely on pollination for their reproduction – pollen really is the gold dust of nature.

“I’m delighted, therefore, that we have begun work on this vital scheme – we have already started to create and enhance habitats for our bees, in appropriate areas, which will help to ensure their future.”

The decline of bees has been caused by a number of reported factors including the use of pesticides, diseases affecting honeybees, lack of habitats for them and excessive mowing of grass. To help, plans to increase wildflower planting across North Tyneside will create another environment for the insects to flourish and nest, as well as providing bee-friendly flowers for them to feed upon.

Every school in the area will be offered help developing habitat areas for bees, and officers will work with staff and children to teach them about why they’re needed and how to look after them

.Adopt-A-HiveResidents will also be engaged with through workshops, where demonstrations will be held to show how they can help by gardening for bees at home. The project in the borough is part of the 10 year Newcastle and North Tyneside Biodiversity Plan, which consists of a series of plans for priority habitats and species in the two areas.

Carol Musgrove, a volunteer at North Tyneside Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s great that the council are taking action for bees. We’ve got over 260 species of wild bees in Britain, and all of them are crucial to producing most of our fruit and vegetables, as well as many of the flowers we enjoy in our gardens.

“But our bees are in serious decline and need our help.

Could Alderney save the honey bee?

buzzbeeOver the last decade there’s been growing concern for the humble honey bee. Changes to the countryside and agricultural techniques are a factor but also disease has hit colonies hard … Except in Alderney.

The island is reportedly one of only two world-wide – the other, Hawaii – that is completely free of bee diseases. A host of measures are being taken to make sure the island stays that way, a haven for healthy bees.

Following a ban on the import of the insects themselves, second hand beekeeping equipment has now been outlawed.

Now, Bee Keepers are looking to capitalise on Alderney’s unique status and breed and export healthy Queen bees to help bolster the bee population world wide.

Bees don’t come here from anywhere else unless man imports them and that means diseases don’t come here so at the moment we are relatively disease free we can produce bees, we can produce queen bees which will allow other people to restock with Alderney bees and that is worth money.


A healthy Queen Bee can be worth up to £400 – but in order to produce them in vast numbers a specialist centre would need to be built.http//

Martin Hunt – Well a rather ambitious step I’ve started what I hope will be the Alderney bee keeping centre which is an old school building and old school playground which will be a permanent enclosure.


Up to 300 hives are planned over a three year period. Whilst this may seem allot, the UK’s Bee keeping association agrees the project could help the UK’s ailing bee population.

There’s a lot of thoughts these days about breeding local bees so if I’m a Surrey man I really ought to have Surrey queens. One thing I would also like to have is disease free bees as well so it’s not out of the question and after all coming from the Channel Islands to the UK is not a dramatic climatic change.


It’s hoped bee keeping could develop into a sustainable cottage industry for Alderney very soon. Whilst at the same time safeguarding its disease free status.

Ivy bees share bankside bar as flowers turn to teacup fruits

Ivy Bee


Autumn drinkers at the ivy were a well-mannered lot, for they did not jostle or eat each other. There was plenty to go round, and bees, wasps and hoverflies alike swarmed around the flowers in a harmonious buzz. The wasps crashed about from bloom to bloom but the delicate hoverflies were more circumspect, making quick glides across, making gentle landings when their flight path was clear of bigger beasts. The smallest among the insects was little longer than a grain of rice.

Neither I nor anyone else had ever seen one of the creatures in the county before. It was worth practically sticking your nose into the blooms for a proper inspection. It was an ivy bee (Colletes hederae), a species of mining bee. It had a furry thorax of bright orange hairs, and a slender tapering abdomen with narrow yellow and black hoops.

The bee made its UK debut in Dorset in 2001 and by 2009 this continental arrival had tracked north-east to cross the Thames. Here, it was in a predictable location, satisfying its requirements among abundant blooms on a south facing slope on a light, sandy soil. True to its name it fed on ivy.

Within three weeks the bankside bar was near closing. The flowers had transformed into green fruits shaped like brimming teacups without a handle. Yet bees still sucked here.


On a bare slope a little along from the ivy were holes that looked as if they had been punched with a single-pronged fork. Inside the mouth of each hole was a tunnel several centimetres long that had been excavated by the now-dead females. At the end of each tunnel a female had laid an egg and packed the cul-de-sac with pollen and nectar.

Now grubs in the sealed chambers will be tucking into the provisions their mothers left them. When their supplies run out these grubs will pass through the coming months as pupae in diapause, a state of suspended animation.

Other bees epitomise the spirit of summer but these are creatures of shortening days and longer nights. For flowering ivy they may as well wait until September.

World renowned expert warns of new threat to honey bees

Delegates at the Institute of Northern Ireland Beekeepers’ annual conference heard of a new threat to honey bees coming from the Small Hive Beetle (Aethina tumida).

hive beetle

The beetle which is indigenous to Africa, was first found in the USA in 1998, and within a few years had caused losses in tens of thousands of colonies. It quickly spread to Australia, Canada and has now been discovered in Italy.


Professor Dave Tarpy from North Carolina State University was one of the key note speakers, and being an expert in this topic, he was the ideal person to update local beekeepers on how to deal with this serious pest.



Hornets are less aggressive than many more frequently encountered wasp species. in spite of their fearsome reputation, they generally only sting in defence of their nest or when something picks them up and their stings are no more dangerous to humans than a wasp’s. A hornet nest lasts only a year, as only the young queens hibernate and survive the winter. Drones die after mating and the workers and the old queen die off in late autumn.



Meet Brixton’s street artists

Louis Masai, Saltoun Road


This intriguing depiction of a bee has an important message at its heart. The bee population has been in mysterious and sudden decline since the late 1990s, which is a problem because because bees don’t just make honey, they pollinate crops and are key to food production. The threat to the bees is also therefore a problem for us humans. I spoke to the artist Louis Masai, who is also the man behind the giant rhino in the Duke of Edinburgh’s beer garden

MM: Does your work usually have an environmental focus? What was the spark for this one?

LM: For the last year I’ve been painting endangered animals. I felt like there needed to be a bit more of a message behind what I was doing.

It came from a trip I made to South Africa, where I was part of a campaign to save the rhino. After working on that and doing smaller bits with bees, I thought it would be cool to do a bigger campaign.

MM: How is the campaign going generally?

LM: It’s going really well. It’s nice seeing people give a shit. Sometimes I feel like they don’t. I hope people actually are engaging, rather than just jumping on a bandwagon or because they just want to take a photo of it.

I hope it makes people think about the reason why bees are disappearing – it’s not just because of pesticides, it’s also because we don’t provide nature a home. That’s not just with bees, it’s with everything.

I’m not saying that that art can solve the problem, all I’m saying is that I’m an artist and art can raise a point. I’ve got Friends of the Earth involved, and they give out information on how to be more aware. I’m not an activist, I’m an artist.

MM: What made you choose bees in particular?Adopt-A-Hive

LM: The biggest chance to make an impact was with bees. We’re very selfish as a race, and if you tell people they’re going to die as a result of bees becoming extinct, they suddenly give a s**t.

Citizen science – from studying bees or seaweed to solar storm-watching

The range of projects that you and your family can get involved with is staggering, and the potential rewards are immense.


‘The whole family became obsessed’

“Bumblebees are my second favourite insect,” says Connor Abrams, aged 7. He prefers spiders – though in fact he’s a fan of all creepy-crawlies. He was delighted when his school took part in the Big Bumblebee Discovery project earlier this year. In the end, the whole family spent the summer roaming around their home county of Yorkshire, searching for bumblebees.

“We went all over the place, to all the parks, everywhere,” says Connor. The project, set up by EDF Energy in conjunction with the British Science Association, asked participants to record bumblebee sightings on lavender plants to gather detailed data about their behaviour.http//

The whole family became obsessed. “I’d be looking everywhere I went,” says Connor’s mum Carol Ann. “Even Connor’s grandma was at it.”

About 30,000 people took part in the project, and as a result of their work it was reported that bumblebees are thriving in areas of floral density in urban centres; information which, it is hoped, will encourage planners to include more planting in towns.

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