I’ve come down with a cold, so am writing this in a feverish sleepless state. So apologies if any of it does make sense – or indeed doesn’t make sense! Feeling a bit sniffly, yesterday I headed down to the third ever London Honey Show, run by the London Lancaster hotel.
It had been moved to a bigger room this year (compared to 2011, I missed the 2012 show), down in the basement with no windows. It was good to have the space but I missed natural light, which tends to make honey glow more. Some free mead and beer samples were on offer, which helped my sore throat a little.
Some unusual hives were on display…
Apis Cerana Cerana prefer small hives.
The first speaker, the delightfully named Michael Badger MBE, was speaking on ‘Urban beekeeping in a bee house’. Given that his bee house (located in his garden outside Leeds) looked bigger than the average London garden, I doubt many of us will be able to replicate it, but it did look rather good.
Unfortunately his presentation was beset by technical difficulties and he seemed to have lost a lot of photos which should have been on his usb stick. This made it quite stop-and-start, as various members of the hotel’s IT team had to jump up and help him. He was unaware of how to rotate pictures, so we had to look at a few by tilting our heads 90 degrees until help arrived!
What is a bee house? Mr Badger has designed a large shed with several hives kept inside. Gaps at the top of the shed allow the bees to fly out; air being allowed to circulate in all the time prevents the problem of the bees thinking it’s warmer outside than it really is. It’s a more complex and clever design than that, but not being a practical person I’m afraid I can’t recall the finer details. He emphasised the importance of keeping the bee house clean, not dropping any wax or honey on the floor, and indeed it did look most spick and span.
I was encouraged that he mostly keeps his bees on a brood-and-a-half or double-brood system, as we are overwintering some of our hives on double brood boxes this year. For ease of lifting, some of his colonies are even kept completely in supers! I have not seen anyone do this before.
“Beekeepers never seem to know anything about bees” he told us, and recommended we read up about bees (not just beekeeping). As farmers know their livestock, so we should know our bees – their communication systems and biology. The books he finds most useful are Dr Colin Butler’s ‘World of the honeybee‘ – out of print, but available through public libraries – and the more recent Ted Hooper, ‘Guide to Bees and Honey‘ and Mark L. Winston’s ‘The Biology of the Honeybee‘.
In April 2014 Mr Badger has a book coming out, ‘Heather Honey – its production and uses’. It has chapters on heather honey ecology, production and its uses – mead, wax, honey cakes, medicinal – and will be published by Bee Craft Ltd.
In my next post I’ll write up my notes from Dale Gibson’s presentation, ‘A year in the life of the Bermondsey Street Bees’ and show you some more photos from the evening. I’ll leave you with some sweet bee cupcakes.