Bee Blogs – February 2016

by in News, Personal Blogs, Simon's Bee Keeping

The weather has, for the most part, been extremely mild – this can be a disadvantage for the bees – because they are flying a good deal they are using more stores than they would be if they were in a tight, snug, cluster. We need to be vigilant and check that all colonies have adequate stores available.

Bees, like all life, respond to the lengthening days.  About the middle of January the cluster will begin to stir and workers eat more honey and pollen to produce a sort of creamy food from glands in their heads to feed the new larvae. The queen also has her rations gradually increased until she has enough surplus nutrients to produce a few eggs which she lays in the centre of the cluster.

The workers have to increase the temperature of the brood area to 96F and do so by consuming more and more honey. The broodless cluster temperature is normally about 57F.

Isolation starvation can occur at this time. During a warm spell in January and February the bees can be rearing a significant amount of brood. If the weather turns cold for any length of time the bees re-cluster over the brood. They remain in this cluster.  As the closest stores have been consumed they have no reserves to hand. Stores could be just one frame away but they cannot leave the cluster to access it and so they starve. If you notice it then put fondant directly on the cluster during the cold period.

I am getting frames cleaned and ready for inserting wax foundation. Before we know it we will be into the season and it is crucial to have the right equipment ready!


I have just finished reading a bee book called, ‘The Biggle Bee Book’ and written by Jacob Biggle in 1909. One of the topics he addresses is the food value of honey and it seems particularly relevant with all the talk about the evils of sugar in our modern diet. I quote:

“ If the food value of honey were fully realised by our people, it would oftener be found on our tables not only during griddle-cake season but throughout the entire year. It is a known fact that honey is a pre-digested food made so by the bees and that does not tax the digestive organs as do other sweets.

For centuries our forefathers had no other sugar save honey but in recent times refined sugars have become so common that honey has been put to one side as a luxury.

It is superior to sugar in many ways, having an aroma of its own and when used in cakes and cookies will keep them moist and fresh much longer than sugar.

And then he goes on to give a recipe for honey gingersnaps!

Honey Gingersnaps – one pint of honey, three quarters of a pound of butter, two teaspoonfuls of ginger. Boil all together for a few minutes and when nearly cold, put in flour until stiff. Roll out thin and bake quickly. 


I came across the following advice for arthritis. I can’t say whether it works or not but I imagine if you suffer from it, anything is worth a try!

Arthritis patients can benefit by taking one cup of hot water with two tablespoons of honey and one small teaspoon of cinnamon powder. When taken daily even chronic arthritis can be cured. In a recent research conducted at Copenhagen University, it was found that when the doctors treated their patients with a mixture of one tablespoon Honey and half teaspoon Cinnamon powder before breakfast, they found that within a week (out of the 200 people so treated) practically 73 patients were totally relieved of pain — and within a month, most all the patients who could not walk or move around because of arthritis now started walking without pain.


A new initiative to save Ireland’s bees was announced recently by the Kilkenny based Heritage Council.The Council is linking up with Bord Bia and the Department of Agriculture to support the implementation of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020.
The plan, launched in September 2015 makes Ireland one of the first countries in Europe with a strategy to address pollinator decline and protect pollination services.
Research indicates that a third of Ireland’s bee species are threatened with extinction. Bees play an important role as “free” pollinators for farmers and gardeners.
Padraig Brennan from Bord Bia described it as “a critical step in improving the biodiversity value of Ireland’s landscape.”
The Plan identifies actions that can be taken on farmland, public land and private land. These include creating pollinator highways along our transport routes, making our public parks pollinator friendly and encouraging the public to see their gardens as potential pit-stops for our busy bees.
It is also about raising awareness on pollinators and how to protect them. One third of our 98 bee species are threatened with extinction in Ireland
The annual value of pollinators for human food crops has been estimated at €53 million in the Republic of Ireland. Declines in wildflowers are subjecting our pollinators to starvation. Our tendency to tidy up the landscape rather than allowing wildflowers to grow along roadsides, field margins, and in parks and gardens is playing a big part in reducing these resources for bees.
Dioscorides worked as a physician in Greece in the first century AD. He claimed great powers for honey as a medicine prescribing it for coughs, to act as a diuretic, for treating young and old alike and even for cases of poisoning by mushrooms, snake bite or rabid dog!

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