The BeeHolder, January 2012

Whilst having a coffee with a fellow member of the MBKA I found myself explaining the “awakening” of bees during the sudden warm spell we often get in February. The bees fly out like a swarm and defecate just a few tens of metres from the hive. The sudden bright day also brings out the washing after months of indoor drying. The bees stain the sheets with myriad spots of golden yellow, my wife is furious . I am also furious because on such a day the car will also be spotted by the bees. The windows are thoroughly smeared and the normal windscreen wash has no effect. I would gladly do all the washing of sheets just to avoid the cleaning of the car. My friend had not understood the joke in the cartoon (here) of the last issue of the BeeHolder; a couple of bees contemplating soiling some clean white sheets on a washing line.

This little anecdote about bee behaviour is the sort of thing that comes from discussion rather than from books. I have always found more learning over our MBKA teas than the preceding lectures.

Another subject we got onto was the direction bees fly. His bees always go straight toward the local village ignoring the apple trees close by. I have the same experience, my bees start foraging a hundred metres from their hives. Books that advocate planting bee friendly flowers close to an apiary have it wrong. I tolerate Himalayan balsam in my garden because the bees love it so much. But I find no evidence that my bees are working these plants. However Debbie Francis who has hives two kilometres away reports that her bees come back in white with the characteristic balsam pollen. So Debbie’s bees are coming to my garden for the balsam whilst mine ignore it. The same happens in my out apiary. The garden I use is more than four miles from the nearest beekeeper. It is groaning with himalayan balsam, yet I have never seen a honey bee on the balsam. However the balsam is worked by numerous bumble bees; thousands of them. Clearly the balsam is working its magic but not for my bees. There must be some evolutionary advantage in ignoring fodder that is close by a hive.

Do any other beekeepers have similar experience? What can be the explanation?

Arthur Findlay

Perhaps they don't want to feed close to the hive because that is where they defecate and discard dead (possibly from disease) bees?

I'm sure that a lot of our beekeepers have experiences and knowledge well worth passing on. Why not write an article for the next BeeHolder? If you are interested, get in touch before 16th March!