Monday, 31 May 2010

Removing the Queen

Ivor the bee keeper came to YSP the other day as he wanted to take the queen out of one of the hives.

He'd noticed that the workers were making a queen cell in the hive and he didn't want to let the existing queen swarm taking half the bees with her.

So, we first had to find the queen and he put her along with a frame of bees into a small hive situated next to the other two hives.
The original hive is now queenless, but they have the queen cell which will hatch soon.

The third image here shows the queen cell - very distinctive.

Sunday, 30 May 2010


This last week has been wonderful at YSP.

The weather has been a bit changeable with rain showers, sunny spells, a cool breeze and skies full of white clouds.

The early plants have all died away and now the bees are mad for other flowers - the honey bees have been frantically feeding on Hawthorn blossom which seems to be smothering the trees at the moment - the smell all sweet and heavy. I went for a walk late into the evening and the Hawthorn trees looked like cloaked figures glowing in the dim light.

Thursday, 20 May 2010


I moved house a couple of days ago so i've not been thinking of bees (just how to try and fib to my friends that i haven't much heavy stuff to shift). I found another dead bee the other day in the park - a buff-tailed bumblebee. I've been offered the use of microscopes at the local university so i can study all the dead ones i've collected more closely (the image above is of a bee I collected last year and kept).

Also, quite a few people are sending things, giving me books and emailing links to things related to bees - my friend Rich sent this link to an article from Lancaster University:

Lancaster University News

and another friend William sent me this one too about a project 'Figures and Hives'

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Other Stuff

While i've been looking for bees around the YSP site i've been counting plant species and also birds and butterflies too.

My friend Owen (a botanist) came to the sculpture park last week and as we wandered round we made a note of all the species. At some point I will list all the plants on the blog, but I move house in a couple of days and i've packed my notebook already.

I know this blog is about bees, but I thought these two images were quite ok.

Top: Underside of Orange tip butterfly on Forgetmenot
(a special flower)
Bottom: Peacock butterfly on blossom

Monday, 10 May 2010

Trouble With ID

I found this bee at YSP and was excited as it looked unlike the others i've found so far. I took lots of shots and took a note of its markings then tried to find out from the key in my book what it might be.
So, I decided it might be a Bombus sylvestris (Four-coloured Cuckoo-bee), but sent the images to a bee chap called Brian to see what he thought. This is his reply:

"Right, I'm going with Bombus bohemicus (Gypsy Cuckoo-bee) which has lost tail hairs and now has a blank patch. This is cos in the first photo there are two pretty faint yellow stripes which sylvestris wouldn't have. Actually i'll go back to the start:

It's obviously a cuckoo cos of the yellow stripe at the top of the thorax and the white bum.

You can probably see the lack of corbiculum cos your photos are v. good.

There are two faint yellow stripes at the top of the abdomen on the first photo, suggesting
vestalis or bohemicus. I've seen plenty of vestalis and the yellow stripes are loads bigger, so i'd hazard a guess at bohemicus.
The second photo shows the bum with no hairs, not black hairs (but i'm not sure from the Edwards and Jenner if sylvestris does have black hairs).

I think that by counting the abdominal sections between pics 2 and 3 you can count 7, which would make it male, so a sylvestris would normally have a ginger tail (but this one has no hair, so that's no help!)
The book says sylvestris has its last abdominal section tightly curled around - i've no idea what that looks like, but thought i'd throw it into the mix.

(I've never seen a bohemicus, so either sylvestris or bohemicus would be really cool)"

He also suggested i send the images to BWARS - Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Society, but i had trouble signing up to a Yahoo account to be able to put them on the forum - but i'll try again this week. And then we can perhaps confirm what the bee is.

As it goes, i'm still trying to see the yellow stripes - plus i had to look the word corbiculum* up before i could agree (which i don't know whether i do or not!)

*In entomology, a smooth or concave space, fringed with stiff hairs, on the inner side of the tibia or basal joint of the tarsus of a bee. Clear now?

Friday, 7 May 2010

Bombus lucorum

I found another species for the site at YSP. It's a White-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lucorum. As it goes Sue (a gardener at YSP) mentioned she'd seen some already, but I saw my first one the other day on the Rhododendron flowers by the centre. The image isn't great, but you get a good view of its white tail.

A common and very widespread species found in many habitats. but more frequent towards the north. A regular garden species. Nest-searching queens of this species are one of the first bumblebees seen in spring, as early as February in the south.

Made in a variety of situations, usually underground, but always under cover. Mature nests are large, often with over 200 workers.*

*Field Guide to Bumblebees Mike Edwards & Martin Jenner

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Common Carder-bee

The bluebells are absolutely wonderful at the moment at YSP - in the woods on the nature reserve. The blue of the bells against the fresh green of the beech trees is such a beautiful sight.

I've seen quite a lot of Buff-tailed Bumblebees on the bluebells and also a number of Common Carder-bees.

The description of Common Carder-bee Bombus pascuorum (pictured above) in my Field Guide to Bumblebees (Mike Edwards & Martin Jenner) is this:

Distribution and biology - A widespread species found in many habitats. A regular garden species. The range of this species is expanding at the moment. Nest-searching queens are the earliest of the carder-bees to be seen, often in March in the south.

- Made in a variety of situations but usually on or just under the ground. The bees collect moss to build the cover for the nests (hence carder-bee). Mature nests are medium sized, with about 100 workers.

Flower visits
- Although this species will visit a fairly wide range of flowers it is very fond of the flowers of legumes and Dead-nettles. It is one of two common species which generally visits the flowers of Foxgloves (the other being B.hortorum)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

YSP Bank Holiday Event

It was the Bee Project event day on Monday at YSP.

There were tours from the centre down to the project base at the boathouse and there was also a workshop (run by artists Kate and Bozz) to build bee boxes for your garden, a theatre company held performances and there was also a performance by the Nottingham Youth Voices and East Midlands Youth String Orchestra.

I was joined on my tours by Thom and Saskia from YSP to talk about the history of the site and also about the sculptures on the grounds; plus my friends Owen (a botanist) and Steve (an arboriculturalist) came with us all to point out plants and trees on our route to the boathouse.

The weather wasn't great - we went through rain and hail, but finally got some sunshine too - so when we got down to the boathouse Ivor (the apiarist) could show us into the new hives.

Thanks to everyone who came to YSP on Monday - especially everyone on my two tours.

Top image by Gavin Renshaw
Bottom image by Steve Canham

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Bees Have Arrived!

I've just got back from a few days at YSP and each day brought something new to the project.

The most exciting thing was the arrival of the bee colonies to go into the two hives and also into the observation hive.

Unfortunately i was delayed on the first morning and missed the two colonies going into the hives that are now sited beside the boathouse, but i was able to see Ivor (the beekeeper) put the bees into the observation hive.

Dressed in all my bee protection gear I could get really close to take lots of photos. It was amazing.

Ivor told me that the queens were originally from Slovenia a couple of years ago, but had been sited near to YSP for the whole of last year before coming to YSP this weekend.