Signing the beehive

To celebrate Green Week and the painting of our beehive, we have been collecting signatures on the hive’s roof. We had a great day out on Houghton St getting people to make Green Week pledges and signing the hive and giving away food, cycle shirts and other goodies in return.

On Houghton St

We also got some big name signatures – can you spot them amongst all the others?

Beehive

That’s right, we managed to get LSE Director, Craig Calhoun to sign our hive! Here he is signing, as well as Sabrina d’Anjou, Diary and Travel Co-ordinator to the Director.

CC signing Sabrina signing

We’re well chuffed with all the signatures and we’re looking forward to the hive’s grand unveiling on the rooftop sometime soon!

SS and AS 2

Photos 2-5 copyright Dan Reeves, 2015.

Green Week gardening workshop

We had a really productive gardening workshop today – finally getting all our planters in place, doing some much needed weeding, and sowing marigold, foxglove and wildflower seeds. Can’t wait to see them come up! Massive thanks to everyone who came along and got their hands dirty.

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We also put our gorgeous new red cedar hive in place – it smells amazing and all it needs now are some bees! Come check it all out at the hive visit tomorrow (11 Feb, 2.30pm).

Hive1 Hive2

Beekeeping in the USA

John Fry, an LSE alumnus (MSc International Relations, Politics of the World Economy, 1994) keeps bees in Washington DC. First published on LSE’s Sustainability blog, John shares his experiences of beekeeping in the US, including laws that banned beekeeping, and a nifty trick to control varroa mites…

People around the world think of Washington, DC as little more than the location of the White House and the US Federal government. But socially conscious citizens engage in a wide range of activities that make the DC Capital Region a great place to live. One of those activities is beekeeping. From 1981 until 2012, it was illegal to keep bees in the District because of a misguided law that forbade bee hives within 500 feet (150 meters) of a home. Beekeepers risked fines and confiscation of their colonies. But a 2012 law focusing on sustainability now permits legal beekeeping and brought backyard hives out of the shadows. Bee hives are now on the roofs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and colonial row houses in Georgetown. Even in the British Embassy has one.

Either legally or illegally, hundreds have taken up beekeeping over the past few years. Since 2011, 200 spots have filled quickly for beekeeping classes taught by the DC Beekeepers Alliance and the Northern Virginia Beekeeping Teaching Consortium. Dozens of “newbees” are also on waiting lists. The eight-week course teaches sustainable beekeeping with either Langstroth or Kenyan top bar hives, using a minimum of chemicals or antibiotics. Instructors provide practical tips for building hives, acquiring bees, and keeping them alive. Mentors answer questions for new beekeepers after the colonies are set up in beeyards. Langstroth hives are more common because bees in Kenyan top bar hives have trouble surviving the cold winter months. Top bar hives are built horizontally rather than vertically; vertical hives seem to retain heat better as it rises from the cluster.

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John Fry and his son tending the beehives

Because of its population density, Washington, DC has no commercial farms so bees are unlikely to encounter pesticides such as neonicotinoids. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a rare occurrence among urban beekeepers in the DC Capital Region because we are not exposed to pesticides and the bees are not trucked around the country for pollination. Occasionally, a beekeeper will lose a colony because a neighbor sprayed for mosquitos, but summer spraying has declined significantly over the last few years. The public is more aware of the negative impact on pollinators such as native bumble bees and honey bees.

Honey bees in the DC Capital Region suffer most from varroa mites and small hive beetles. Beekeepers who are reluctant to use chemicals to lower their mite loads try natural remedies such as shaking powdered sugar through the hives to encourage cleaning behavior among the bees. But these methods have a limited effect. More recently, beekeepers have started removing queens from the hives once a year during a period of heavy nectar flow, normally 15 April through 15 May locally. By halting the brood cycle of the colony, varroa mites stop breeding as well. Removing the queens also discourages swarming, leaves more room in hives for honey production, and allows for the creation of nucleus colonies, known as “nucs”. A nuc is very popular as a reliable starter colony and sells for up to $150 (£100).

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John Fry and his beehives

Small hive beetles are an emerging pest for local beekeepers, and we are still working through solutions to the problem. Strong colonies can drive small hive beetles to the top and bottom of the hives, where they are caged in propolis enclosures or dropped through steel mesh to the ground. But weak colonies need additional assistance. Beekeepers typically use beetle traps between hive frames which are filled with vegetable oil. Bees drive the beetles into the traps and they drown.

The demand for local honey has never been greater, with direct to consumer sales topping $11 per pound (£16 per kilogram). Consumers are keen to use local honey to lessen the effects of pollen allergies. Honey types include acacia, sourwood (a delightful honey with an anise aftertaste), and tulip poplar (an amber honey with a slight molasses taste). Many beekeepers also use beeswax and propolis to make candles, lip balm, lotion bars, and propolis throat sprays. The community of beekeepers warmly welcomes new members, and we help each other through mentoring programs. Even with ongoing challenges, the future of urban beekeeping in Washington, DC is very bright indeed.

Beehive painting competition

Are you creative? Do you fancy leaving a permanent legacy of your time at LSE? As part of Green Week, LSE Bees is offering one of its hives for painting and we need YOU to submit a design idea! If your idea is chosen, you will have the chance to paint one of LSE’s very own beehives which will then be displayed as part of Green Week, 9-13 February 2015.

Entries will be judged by an expert panel of bee-lovers: Dr Luke Dixon, LSE’s expert beekeeper; Allan Blair, Director of Facilities Management Estates Division; and Stan Shillington, President of the LSE SU Beekeeping Society.

Design scope

You will have four sides of a white WBC hive to paint (but not the very top of the roof – that’s being left for Green Week signatures):

WBC hive

And 946ml (one quart) of each of these three shades:

Black Red Yellow

The hives are available to view to scope out your design if needed – just contact the LSE SU Beekeeping Society at lsesu.beekeepingsociety@gmail.com to find out the date of the next hive visit.

How to enter:

Send a scanned image of your design to lsesu.beekeepingsociety@gmail.com by Friday 23 January at 5pm to enter the competition. The winner will be announced on Wednesday 28 January.

IMPORTANT: You must be available to paint the hive on campus at LSE between Thursday 29 January and Friday 6 February.

What to consider when painting a beehive

We’re really excited about the fact that one of our beehives is going to be painted as part of LSE’s Green Week in February 2015. Looking at some of these beautiful hives has provided some great inspiration!

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Beehives at the University of Connecticut

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Beehive at the University of California, Davis

But what kind of things do you need to consider when painting a beehive? Having just lost one of our hives to colony collapse disorder, we’re already particularly sensitive to the type of paint we’re going to put on the hive, but what about colour choices, and which parts of the hive should we not paint?

So, heading to the trusty interweb, we found all sorts of information. Firstly, that when considering what colour to paint the hive, you must remember that dark colours will keep the hive warm, whereas light colours will keep the hive cool. So, it’s probably not a good idea to paint the entire thing black as it might get a bit too much like a sauna in there over summer!

You can also only paint the outside of the hive – remembering that a beehive is basically a food container that makes sense! Here’s a useful diagram showing which parts to paint and which parts not to paint:

paintingHive

c/o Essex County Beekeepers

Satin paint (so it doesn’t attract as much dirt as a rougher paint) and low-chemical paint (i.e. with the lowest levels of volatile organic compounds possible) are also recommended.

So, we’ve got a bit of planning to do in terms of which paints we use and what designs might be best. Watch this space!

We’ve lost a hive to colony collapse disorder

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We’re all really gutted – we’ve lost one of our hives on Connaught House to colony collapse disorder… When we opened it up today for a final check before the Christmas break it was empty – no bees, no honey, no nothing.

We don’t know where the bees are or what caused it. We don’t use pesticides in our hive (for example we treat our varroa mites with an organic treatment). You can read more about colony collapse disorder all over the web, but here’s a good introduction.

But, we’re going to bounce back and will split the bees from the other hive next year and introduce a new queen, so hopefully it will thrive. We’re also going to give the now empty hive a good clean and will launch a competition to #paintthehive for LSE’s Green Week 2015 – more details on that in the new year.