The saddest sight a beekeeper can see is a huddle of dead bees, heads thrust deep inside empty wax cells, with the queen dead in the middle. And the wretched thing is that they had starved just an inch away from a broad, golden arc of honey. This phenomenon is called “Isolation Starvation“.
With the temperature relentlessly around zero, the word “scorching” is clearly unrelated to today’s weather forecast.
Well, it is and it isn’t. This frosty time of year is ideal for a belt and braces cleansing of empty beehives. This can be accomplished by immersing the hive parts in a lye (sodium hydroxide) solution, or for smaller scale beekeepers, by using a blow-torch to singe the interior crevices and wide surfaces of brood and super boxes. That’s where the scorching comes in. Here I am, spring-cleaning a hive which I have just started to manage.
Along with Earth, Air and Fire, Water is one of the elements common to ancient Greek, Buddhist and Hindu philosophies. And even when modern scientists scan for signs of extra-terrestrial existence, water is the first thing they look for. Water is vital to life. So why don’t bees store water?
I didn’t realise when we posed for this picture that Marie Laure Legroux and I were making an impromptu version of the French tricolore: Blue, White and Red. There’s selfie solidarity for you!
At this time of year, our attention switches from bees to people. Briefly.
So we were delighted to welcome Carolina Spurlino onto our Bermondsey Street rooftop.
The competition for bubble-wrap becomes intense in our household at this time of year. And it’s not just Sarah’s extraordinarily gregarious Christmas present list which drives the local demand for that commodity.
I have a beekeeping confession to make. It is strange, but true. I wrap my Bermondsey rooftop hives with bubble-wrap in December and January each year. There, I’ve said it.
We crossed the Atlantic to visit Artie Rollins at his New York City Parks Department’s 30,000 square foot rooftop on Randall’s Island.
An unusual assignment. And an unglamorous location. Even the taxi driver we flagged down in Harlem after the M35 bus we were on broke down had no idea where it was. Or did, but didn’t like the idea of going there. But we were on a mission.
At the Moulin d’Olivery, the Brenez-Candille family have built up an impressive honey business over 30 years. Patrick and Isabelle Candille currently run 1200 hives, producing between 25,000-30,000 tonnes of honey annually, most of which is sold to bulk buyers. But that still leaves some 30,000 jars to be hand-labelled every year for sale to retail customers. Brava Isabelle!
On 24th September 2015, we took an observation hive into Borough Market for the final of the Sustain/Evening Standard Urban Food Awards. Continue reading “Urban Food Awards”