No risk, no reward

“April showers bring May flowers”, or something close to that, is a poem that has its origins in the General Prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It means that the Atlantic low pressure systems that roll in from the west during April, often bringing rain, also account for the abundance of flowers that bloom in May. […]

Winter losses

I lost 10% of my colonies this winter. It’s always disappointing losing colonies, but it’s sometimes unavoidable. I suspect the two I lost were unavoidable … though, as you’ll see, they weren’t completely lost. April showers frosts Late April may seem like mid-season for many beekeepers based in southern England. While they were adding their […]

Frequently asked questions

The 2020/21 winter has been very busy with online talks to beekeeping associations. I’m averaging about five a month, with only the fortnight over Christmas and New Year being a bit quieter.  When chatting to the organisers of these talks it’s clear that they are getting increasingly successful . Audience numbers are encouragingly high as […]

2020 in retrospect

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote my retrospective review of the 2019 season. At the time I was thinking “What a nightmare! If I never again have a year like that it’ll be too soon.”. This was due to a major fire in my research institute which terminated a 30 year research programme and […]

Preparing for winter

The beekeeping season is fast receding into the distance as the first frosts of autumn appear and, finally, the wasp numbers start to diminish. By now colonies should be heavy with stores, either collected by the bees or provided by the beekeeper. There is relatively little actual beekeeping to be done this late in the […]

Long distance beekeeping

This post was originally entitled ‘lockdown beekeeping’. I changed it in the hope that, at some point in the future, we’ve all forgotten lockdown and are back to the ‘old normal‘. Instead, long distance beekeeping, better summarises the topic and might rank better in future Google searches … But before I start, here’s some general […]

More gentle beekeeping

I’ve done less beekeeping this year than any time in the past decade. The Covid-19 lockdown enforced changes to the way we live and work, meaning my contact with the bees has been ‘big and infrequent’ rather than ‘little and often’.  ‘Big and infrequent’ meaning a day or three of intense activity every month or […]

The gentle art of beekeeping

High summer. The swarm season had been and gone. The June gap was over. Grafts made at the peak of the swarm season had developed into lovely big fat queen cells and been distributed around nucleus colonies for mating. That was almost six weeks ago. From eclosion to laying takes a minimum of about 8 […]

Bigging up nucs

The phrase bigging up [somebody or something] means saying they are very good, usually in public . It is slang and used informally and usage has increased significantly in the last couple of decades. The term bigging in bigging up meaning promotion, is relatively new. However, the same word can be traced back to Middle English and […]

It’s the little things …

When I first started keeping bees colony inspections were a special occasion. There was quite a bit of preparation beforehand, collecting together the paraphernalia the catalogues all described as essential for effective beekeeping. I’d fuss over the hives, sometimes opening them a second time (or twice in a weekend) to check things. I’d write up […]