Volunteer at the Bee Collective via Team London

As regular readers of this blog will know, our friends at the Bee Collective (where we process our honey) have some great volunteering opportunities available where you can learn all about honey, how it’s processed, and even get to try some different varieties at the end of the night.

Here are some photos from the last time LSE Bees went to the Bee Collective:

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Watching the honey being spun out of the comb

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Our golden honey!

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Scraping the caps off the comb ready for processing

They’ve now made it even easier to get involved as ou can book a place at their Tuesday night volunteering sessions (6.30-8pm) online at the Team London website. It’s a lot of fun, you can go as a group of friends, or even as a creative and unusual date!

Spaces are limited to six people per session so make sure you register your interest early. At the moment you can try your hand at winter bee crafts, so things like building hives, cleaning beeswax or making seed bombs – sounds brilliant!

So get down there and get involved!

Spot the difference

Just a quick hive visit today as the temperature’s plummeted and we didn’t want to let too much cold air into the hive. But we put our beautiful painted hive in situ (facing vaguely in an easterly direction), improvised a rock pool so the bees could have something to drink and checked on the progress of the new plants (slow, but they’re getting there).

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What was quite interesting though was seeing the difference in pollen on the boards of the two hives which currently have bees in them. The cedar hive (top board) has a new queen and bee stock and is all go! The white hive (bottom board) has an old queen (soon to be replaced) and is much less active.

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Check out the pollen from the cedar hive bees! They’re really getting into the swing of things. Soon we’ll have some new bees in the painted hive as well so it’ll be all go up on the roof.

So make sure you come and visit one time! We’d love to see you there.

London street art

While it hasn’t been seen on any of LSE’s walls (yet!) we’re loving these amazing murals painted by street artist Louis Masai Michel around London and the world.

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They’re part of a series he painted last year called #SavetheBees which was inspired by a trip to South Africa where he learnt about the implications of colony collapse disorder. You can see more brilliant pictures on a post on another blog, Colossal, or on Michel’s website.

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Maybe something for our next hive painting project!

Amazing photographs of LSE Bees by Martin Cervenansky

We had a special visit from photojournalist Martin Cervenansky last week who has a history of photographing bees in interesting places (check out these other great photos). He’s currently studying documentary photography at the University of the Arts London and is a photographer at the University’s Artefact Magazine.

He took some shots of our current president, Stan Shillington, as well as Laura Price putting the finishing touches on the newly painted hive.

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(c) Martin Cervenansky

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(c) Martin Cervenansky

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(c) Martin Cervenansky

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(c) Martin Cervenansky

We think these photos are brilliant! Love the stormy skies and interesting compositions. Check out his Facebook, Twitter or website for more.

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.

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

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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.

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

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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).

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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.