Wednesday, 31 March 2010

More Boathouse Development

So, the boathouse continues to get a makeover. It's now a respectable green so it can blend in with other respectable green things.
A new raised bed has been made and will be planted up with bee friendly flowers and shrubs, plus a line of shrubs have been planted to create cover for the bee hives - they look like bare sticks at present, but i'll presume they'll burst into life further into the season.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Bee Spotting

I got the following email this morning from Sue, Gardener and Estate Volunteer Coordinator at YSP. It's lovely to know that people are looking out for bees for the project:

Hi Rebecca :)
Just to let you know that we have some heather in our yard next to the greenhouse which had 6 bees on yesterday - there is also some heather as you walk down Beaumont Drive towards the mansion on the right hand side. (Its over near one of the buildings, you can see it from the road :) )

happy bee-spotting!

The image is of my note book showing notes from 23rd & 24th March. I noted 34 species of bird and 52 species of plant, plus hare and grey squirrel.

Spring Plants

The last couple of days I tried to explore as much of the YSP estate as possible - it's a vast site (visitors can't possibly get round it in a day) and I've enjoyed looking at all the different habitats.

The weather has been blustery and changeable, but mild too so lots of the spring plants are coming out and flowering.
The Snowdrops are nearly over, but Coltsfoot, Celandine, Crocus and Daisies are out with Gorse, Dandelion and Daffodils only days away from coming out fully too. Buds are fattening up and catkins are out on the Willow.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Look What I Found!

I found my first YSP bumblebees of the season!

Actually, i nearly stood on the first one - it was on the grass in the middle of the field east of the James Turrell Deer Shelter. It was just after midday on Tuesday 23rd and it was a beautiful, big fat, hairy thing. It was huge - i could see it for ages as it flew off - i feared for unattended children being swooped upon and whisked off by it.

I also saw a couple on the Access Trail on the crocus, heard one fly near by and then another in the grass near the Barbara Hepworth sculptures.

I used my Field Guide to Bumblebees of Great Britain and Ireland by Mike Edwards and Martin Jenner to make an ID. From following the key i reckon they are all Bombus terrestris Buff-tailed Bumblebee. The description is this:

"A common and very widespread species, found in many habitats but not in the far north and generally scarce in Scotland... A regular garden species. Nest searching queens are probably the first emerging bumblebee species, frequently being seen in February in the south."

All the bees I saw (8 in total) on 23rd and 24th March are Bombus terrestris - it could of course be the same individual bee that i keep seeing....

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Old Records

When I first started at YSP I wondered if the estate had any records of keeping bees in the past.

Saskia, who is the Heritage Researcher at YSP sent me this email:

Hi Rebecca

I attach the info from the gardener's diaries - it's really just a couple of tit-bits but it demonstrates the continued presence of bees and beekeeping on the site and surrounding lands.

Also - interesting that the bees are recorded right until the end of October (not just spring / summer months).

All the best


So the following are excerpts from the Head Gardener's diaries kept in the Bretton Hall and Dearn Valley Collection, Special Collections, University of Leeds:

20th January 1974: Very mild and sunny. Bees flying like mad.

3rd June 1974: Warm and sunny all day. Bees flying again.

3rd October 1977: Bees nest in fork.

6th October 1977: Fumigated bees in fallen tree.

Saskia also wrote:
"From conversations with the Head Gardener Dave Edwards, the old late E.C. Frost (used to be head gardener) was a beekeeper who kept hives in the Bothy Wall. In addition, beekeepers used to tend to hives during the summer months in the land behind the visitor centre and staff car park."

I'm also keen on finding older records of keeping bees on the estate if there are any. Considering the age of the Bretton Estate - there must have been more beekeeping during its history.

The image here is another from my Blackboard Illustrations for Object Lessons by F.Steeley & B.H. Trotman

Friday, 12 March 2010

Emerging Bees

During the early parts of my research I was given the contact details of a couple of bumblebee experts. So, last autumn I contacted them both by email and here is the reply I got from one of them:

Hi there Rebecca

Quick answers to your questions:

When is the best time to start looking for bees?

Queens will start to emerge around March / April time. It's not a precise science and depends on the winter conditions. It is later as you go north. Emergence of the earliest bees usually coincides with the flowering of trees like willow.

What is the best method of searching and what equipment will I need?

In the spring look at willows and other flowering shrubs / plants (e.g deadnettles, alkanet, comfrey). Also look around tussocky grassy places. Queens may be emerging from these and also searching for new nests. A butterfly net is good if you want to catch them as are marking tubes.

How can I look at bees closely without causing them harm?

Depends what you want to do with them. To look at them close up use a marking tube. A more weighty and comprehensive work on all things bumblebee is the New Naturalist "Bumblebees" by Ted Benton.


Dr Matthew Heard
Head of Biodiversity and Conservation Management Group
NERC Centre fro Ecology and Hydrology



So, I've ordered my butterfly net and marking tubes. I've watched videos of a chap in USA giving tutorials on how to catch bees with a net - he made it look so easy and graceful (i have a horrible feeling I'll be rubbish at it - scaring every living creature for miles around). Getting hold of a copy of the Bumblebee book is proving a little more difficult - it's £80 or more so I'm going to try and get it from a library.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Bee Badges

As part of the Bee Project we thought it would be a good idea to encourage 'bee promises'.

When you visit YSP you can pick up a Bee ID card, fill it in making a promise to plant bee friendly plants, put a bumblebee box in your garden etc and in return you can have a bee badge for free.

The little enamel badge shows a drawing from the 'dead bee. again and again' series.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Beautiful Beehives

The beehives have been finished. Aren't they so very beautiful?

When I walked into the boathouse I was struck by the strong smell of the cedar wood and also at the size of them. They look solemn in the dark (they look like darleks).

Thanks so much to Mark and Sam for putting them together.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Upper Gallery Day 4

So, on day four I arrived before 7.30 to get cracking on the remaining images. Adrianne arrived shortly after me and we got stuck in.

As it goes, it all went pretty good and i finished the final images by lunchtime. Then with placing the display case and plinths i'd completely finished by 2pm.
Unfortunately for Adrianne the vinyls took far longer (she could potentially still be there).

Also on show are my 'dead bee. again and again' drawings and also pressed flower specimens.

Upper Gallery Day 3

The third day was a bit stressful. Some of the images are quite complicated and even though i tried to tell myself to paint quicker - it's not that simple. I was also either kneeling on the floor (my knees seem to be aging faster then the rest of me) or balancing on a wobbly chair. I painted from 8am - 6pm and still had 6 images to do on the final day. Adrianne was helping me full time by now, placing all the vinyl text and I think we both left feeling that we would have to put some long hours in on the final day.

The image here shows Lenin - in 1919 he decided that beekeepers would be exempted from taxation in the Soviet Union.
And also an image of 'dancing bees' - in 1953 Karl von Frisch, a German entomologist, explained apian communication - and in 1973 he won the Nobel Prize for his research.

Upper Gallery Day 2

By the end of day two I had finished all the lines (don't look too close at whether they are level or not), i had placed all the vinyl texts and also started to paint the first couple of images.
Not much else happened.

Upper Gallery Day 1

To highlight the start of the residency at YSP (which starts at the end of this month) it was decided that a display about the project and about bees should be presented in the upper gallery space at the YSP Centre.

During a lapse of concentration I agreed to develop a honeybee timeline - showing all the major discoveries, stories and interesting facts about honeybees and it would go onto the large wall in the space. The research was fascinating and i found out lots about the history of honeybees so in that respect it was great for me. However, i also decided to not only do the timeline with tacks and black thread, but i also thought it would be good to paint supporting images directly onto the gallery wall.... seemed like a good idea at the time.

So on day one I arrived to a blank wall (which had already been painted a beautiful honey colour) and embarked on placing all the 32 lines of information.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Advice Part 2 - Best Bits

Helen has sent the best bits of beekeeping. I must say that when i asked Helen for advice on bee keeping she knew I was going to propose setting up beehives for a project - she knew that I would not be around full time and that other people would have to take charge and fund it too. It's a big decision to set up and look after bees, so her thoughts reflect this.

Hi Becs

I did send 'best bits' but they might have been in email part 2.
They are:

1 Being party to a completely unknown world, though the bees never recognise the beekeeper as a part of their private world, she / he (the beekeeper) is always an intruder.

2 Meeting a group of fascinating, fascinated beekeeper people.
3 Taking on a project that then becomes a way of life and around which ones life plans have to fit e.g dropping everything at a moment's notice to go after a swarm, taking ones holiday at a suitable non bee time etc...

4 Realising that insect instinct is older than human time.

5 Keeping the project going for half a life time...


The image here is from Blackboard Illustrations for Object Lessons by F.Steeley and B.H. Trotman