Lambeth Palace Bees

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It is rare for me to receive an invitation to a Palace. As a beekeeper, I usually visit my queens uninvited. But I was flattered when John Chapple suggested that I might like to stand in for him at a Parliamentary away day at Lambeth Palace. John is simply the best beekeeper I know. So to be invited to open his hives and inspect them with a group of absolute novices was a feather in my cap. 

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The Bee Garden Party

Beekeeper
Beekeeper

Bees can forage in a 3-mile radius of their hive. With that in mind, I mounted a Boris bike in Bermondsey Street and set off on a 3-mile midsummer evening bike ride, crossing the river to Marlborough House on the Mall for a Bee Garden Party (“by kind permission of Her Majesty the Queen”, the invitation stated. How very appropriate.)

Waggledance Walk

The great and the good were gathered there to raise money for the Bees For Development charity. The wonderful Hannah from Hiver Beers was there. Gill Smith from Thornes. Bill Turnbull auctioned bee-themed prizes, including a jar of his own honey.

We donated an Apis Consultancy report to the silent auction – and the bidding was as hot as the summer sunshine for our Apiary site survey and advisory services.

Apis Beekeeping Consultancy
Apis Beekeeping Consultancy

My mentor and senior bee-buddy John Chapple, was there with his charming wife, Kathleen, resplendent in his bee shirt, kindly recommending our Consultancy services to a new private client.

John Chapple
John Chapple

And Nikki Vane chatted to the party’s hostess, Martha Kearney, about their shared sensitivity to bee venom.

Martha Kearney & Nikki Vane
Martha Kearney & Nikki Vane

And so the sun went down on a worthwhile evening for the Bees For Development charity. We hadn’t conspicuously changed the world, but it felt like things were heading in the right direction…

In the Apiary : Mid-May : An Inspector Calls…

At 5.31pm precisely the doorbell rang. It was the Seasonal Bee Inspector for South London, Brian McCallum, sent from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) on a routine visit to the Bermondsey Street Bees. In the 8 years in which I have been keeping bees, this was my first visit from an inspector. Or, as I like to look at it, the first time I have been offered a free beekeeping lesson from an expert, paid for by Her Majesty’s Government. Hey, Brian, great to see you! But what kept you so long? Suiting-up on the roof terrace, I noticed that Brian’s bee-suit’s breast pocket has a badge with the insignias of “Fera” and “National Bee Unit” sewn into it. Now, there used to be a government department called Fera, which was formed in 2009. But Fera is now a limited company, owned 75% by Capita plc and 25% by DEFRA (Department of Food and Agriculture). Of course, DEFRA was created to absorb the splendidly-titled Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) in 2002. And the Bee Inspectorate was transferred from Fera to APHA late last year. Can anyone out there explain why government departments change their name-tags as freqently as those of the baristas at your local Costa Coffee? Dizzying, isn’t it? Anyway, smoker lit, we set straight to work. Brian was soon performing the slow ballet of beekeeping on our precarious fourth storey rooftop. Standing in a narrow gully between the pitched slate roof and the brick parapet on which the hives stand, we danced a pas-de-deux, as elegantly as possible in our veiled bee-suits, visiting Abbey Hive, Square Hive, Swarm Hive, Neckinger Hive, Leathermarket Hive, Shard Hive and Thames Hive.

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In The Apiary – April 2015 – First Inspections

Bees With Altitude !
First Inspections

Spring has been a long time coming, but finally, I’ve been able to crack open my hives and inspect the Bermondsey Street Bees, checking up on their health, development and well-being – and especially on each hive’s Queen.

Let’s take a closer look at these Green Queens. Green was the Queen marking colour for 2014, when these Majesties were born. This year’s dab of fast-drying marker pen on a new Queen’s thorax will be Blue. But more of that another time. Let’s focus on the Queens in each hive as the business end of 2015’s season gets underway:

Queen Of Abbey Hive
Jade, Queen Of Abbey Hive

Abbey Hive is my breeding hive. It has consistently produced excellent, well-tempered and productive Queens for my Apiary. Queen Jade is no exception: victorious, happy and glorious, indeed. Right now, Abbey Hive is the most populous of all my Bermondsey Street hives and it has a smattering of drones already, with a few more to come, but the look of the cells on the bottom of a couple of the frames and some empty “play cups“. Taking my cue from the bees I have just put a Snelgrove board in, with the intention of raising some more model Queens from this genetic dynasty.

Queen Of Shard Hive
Esmeralda, Queen Of Shard Hive

Shard’s Queen Esmeralda was introduced to this queenless hive 10 days ago and she is going great guns. Amazingly, she seems to have physically grown in stature since I moved from a small mating hive into the more capacious Shard hive. Just goes to show…

Queen Of Thames Hive
Myrtle, Queen Of Thames Hive

It looks as if Myrtle, Queen of Thames hive, has been bustling around vigorously, too, given the faded patch of paint on her thorax. Not to worry. I’ll get her a makeover soon.

Grunhilde, Queen Of  Hive
Grunhilde, Queen Of Neckinger Hive

Finally, a glimpse of Grunhilde, Queen of Neckinger hive – she starred in my rooftop video (“Extreme Beekeeping“) earlier this week – so I don’t want to all this media exposure going to her head!

So there we are: an introduction to the Bermondsey Street Bees and their anointed Queens. And there’s more: there’ll be updates “In The Apiary”  updates every month throughout the summer!

BBC R4 “Saturday Live” Interview

Radio 4 Bee-Recording Kit
Radio 4 Bee-Recording Kit

Last Saturday, 4th April, BBC Radio 4 joined me on my rooftop to meet the Bermondsey Street Bees. In case you missed it, here is the BBC podcast of the show.

Open the 4th April show and advance to 44 minutes and 20 seconds into the programme. That’s the start of my slot.

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All You Have To Do Is Add One Pete Ross…..

It was all great fun and R4’s Pete Ross was rock-steady up on the roof with the bees – a consummate professional.

My one regret was that the impassioned words on my Forage Campaign were left on the cutting room floor. So here’s are the “stab-points”: “Bees can’t eat kind words“. “Bees won’t thrive on good intentions“. “It is the moral responsibility of every beekeeper to ensure sufficient forage for their bees“. Rant over!

So I am resigned to going down in posterity as the guy who ended up under Helena Bonham-Carter (in the show’s interviewed guest list, that is), rather than as the Martin Luther of modern beekeeping.

Next time, I’m shooting for Desert Island Discs. I bet no-one’s ever asked Kirsty for: “Ted Hooper’s “Guide To Bees and Honey”, please.

I like radio. I’m told I have the perfect face for it.

10 Out Of 10

Orford School Bee
Orford School Bee

Sarah and I were delighted to receive a collection of wonderful bee-drawings made by the pupils of Orford CEVA Primary School, following our bee-education day in March.

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A Catalogue Of Bees

 

Here are some random samples of the art-work.

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And Some Bee-Themed “Thank You”s

 

In particular, we loved the vibrant colours and the many different interpretations of a bee’s anatomy.

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Happy Memories !

We marked them all 10 out of 10! Full marks!

Oyez, Oyez !

Bermondsey Street - The Buzziest Street In London.
Bermondsey Street – The Buzziest Street In London.

Tune into BBC Radio 4’s “Saturday Live” from 9am – 10.30am on 4th April 2015 to hear all about the Bermondsey Street Bees.

It’s Abbey Hive’s first inspection of the year – and we’re shouting it from the rooftops!