January in The Apiary: Plants & Pesticides.

The apiary is shaded till the afternoon when the sun moves further west and out of the trees. For the first week of January in several years we’re having good old fashioned winter weather and the past week has been beautiful and crisp underfoot. Talking about underfoot reminds me that I dug out my pair of Yaktrax and pulled them over my walking shoes which have almost worn right through the soles. The current lockdown situation means that shopping in town for new boots is out of the question. You can buy snow grips easily on the internet and mine have tiny metal coils that give really great traction on snow and ice. I’ve had them for years but never had to use them till now which reflects recent mild winters.

My Yakktrax footprint alongside those of many others.
The sun at 11:30 hours GMT.

You can see how low the sun lies and it’s nearly noon. Fortunately, this is a small area of woodland and the sun makes an appearance around 14:00. It’s faintly warm too when it hits the hives but the winter clusters sit tight and there’s not a bee to be seen this week.

Botany Challenge.

I’ve taken up the challenge of walking out every day to assess local bee forage and document everything that I see in flower. So far, I have listed 10 flowering plants around my garden and beyond and I’ll share them at the end of the month. My two study buddies in Somerset and Staffordshire are doing the same. We are hundreds of miles apart so the results should be interesting. An interesting piece of research was published this week on the changes in available bee forage plants in the UK compared with the 1950’s. You will find the link to the original paper which you can download free: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-55662985?fbclid=IwAR17yOUmFVBnGls8dK2j1DbKS2oa2FVv87qWy1Ej6Q

This week, the neonicotinoid debate sparked off following the announcement that sugar beet famers in UK are to be permitted to use one of the neonicotinoids this year to protect the crop. As usual the views and comments on social media are deeply polarised but there are some well balanced views and pieces of useful information out there. This is what the Deputy President of the NFU (National Farmer’s Union) posted on Facebook below.

“I do not use Facebook that often but I wanted to write something on the issue of neonicotinoids. Most of you will know that as well as being the NFU Deputy President I am also an organic farmer and am proud to be so. However I am also a believer in balanced arguments. I felt some of the arguments / stories etc around the issue of the recent emergency authorisation on the use of neonicotinoids in sugar beet are missing balance and I wanted to make a few points which people may have missed: Point 1: Sugar Beet is a non-flowering crop. The clue is in the ‘non-flowering’ name and it clearly means that bees will have no interest in coming into contact with treated plants.

Point 2. Much has been made of the UK overturning EU decisions. I would like to point out that 13 Countries in the EU have also granted an emergency authorisation to use neonicotinoids to grow sugar beet.

Point 3. British Sugar is something we should all be proud of. Its amongst the most sustainable sugar produced in the world. Without the use of neonicotinoids in 2021 British Sugar Beet yields would have been decimated. Not allowing this emergency authorisation would simple have led to more imports of sugar from EU countries that can use neonicotinoids or other countries which which use other plant protection products banned in the UK.

Point 4. Emergency Authorisations are not new for these sorts of issues. In July last year Ministers used the same process in relation to copper hydroxide which organic potato farmers desperately needed.

Point 5. The emergency authorisation has come with stringent conditions including for example the a ban on growing oil seed rape on the same grown for 32 months. I know we all love to polarise debates and inhabit extremes but before deciding how you feel about an issue please look at all sides of the argument.”

Researching current information.

I like Humberto Boncristiani’s interview with Dr Scott McArt (Cornell University) because it it’s interesting, informative and based on current research. It’s worth reading widely around a subject like this one which affects us all. InsideTheHive.TVhttps://www.youtube.com/embed/4JNToTRKhkw?autoplay=1&enablejsapi=1DEC 14, 2020 AT 2:11 AMUnlockedNeonicotinoids in New York – First Live Streaming – Update

Walking through the week.

You’ll notice animal tracks in my photos. It’s a quiet week in terms of meeting other humans on my walks, but I met a mouse bounding across the road in front of me. A field vole probably and it must make the trip across the road, from the edge of woods, to the barley stubble field frequently judging by the confidence and purposefulness of it’s movements. You can see on the above right the hole that it popped down. I left a small piece of my cereal bar and a couple of rose hips at the entrance in case it fancies a day off from foraging in this dangerous environment. A couple of buzzards call to each other in the still air above and I walk on in glittering sunshine.

Rabbit / hare highway.

I’m finishing off with a video clip that got my attention this week and reminded me a little of my own childhood on a farm.

https://www.facebook.com/BBCArchive/videos/695917541093646

6 thoughts on “January in The Apiary: Plants & Pesticides.”

  1. BY THE WAY YOU WRITE, A GATHER YOU DID WELL IN SCHOOL IN THE ENGLISH CLASS :-).

    LOVE THE WAY YOU BRING YOUR WALKS TO LIFE, 🙂 IT CERTAINLY DRAWS IN THE READER.

    THE SUGAR BEET DEBATE DOES CONFUSE ME SOMEWHAT…….. I AM SURE IT WILL GO ON & ON TO WHAT END? I AM NOT SURE!

    MY BEES HAVE NOT BEEN OUT AT ALL SINCE ABOUT 10 DAYS NOW. I HAVE 1 HIVE (FUNNILY ENOUGH THE ONE THAT IS IN THE WOODEN HIVE) THAT COMES OUT WITH THE SLIGHTEST GLIMPSE OF SUN BUT AS YOU SAY THE SUN IS RATHER LOW JUST YET & THEY DONT GET MANY HOURS OF SUN. SOOOON HOPEFULLY.

    THANKS FOR YOUR PROSE 🙂 FIONA 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comments, Fiona. I hope that you have a good season when it starts. It is interesting watching different colonies in an apiary and noticing the differences between them.
      I had a really good English teacher called Miss McEwen back in the ’60s at Oban High School. I’ve also been writing a lot over the last 10 years for various magazines etc, and I think that writing develops if you are constantly working at it.

  2. Thank you, Ann, for providing a glimpse of your winter world in northern Scotland. The photo that shows the elevation of the sun, still low above the horizon at 2 PM, is striking.

    Are all your hives made of polystyrene? If not, have you found that colonies living in the polystyrene hives do better over winter than the colonies living in less well insulated (with wooden walls and lid) hives?

    1. Hello, Tom. 5 colonies are in poly hives over this winter, and 4 in wooden ones. I will make the effort to carefully assess them at the fist inspection in terms of brood nest size etc. It is hard to assess in terms of survival because I have a very low colony loss rate over winter. One in 16 years with a drone laying queen. It came through winter but obviously dwindled. One thing in the past I’ve noticed is that the brood nest often extends right up to the hive wall in poly hives. This is never the case in my wooden hives.

      1. Thank you. If you can take data on cluster locations and cluster sizes (no. of frame sides covered with bees, and no. of frame sides with brood) for each hive when you do your first inspections, then that will provide the first controlled (same time, same location, same sorts of bees) comparison of the two types of hives on colony state in late winter/early spring. It is great that you have similar numbers of colonies for each kind of hive, and (perhaps) that all 9 hives are more or less in the same location.

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