Thursday, 23 December 2010

Pressing Subject

I've spent the last few days sorting out the pressings i collected in the summer at YSP. I gathered many plants that bees were feeding on and am now mounting them onto paper, labelling and stamping the sheets.

To make sure none of them have any infestations all the pressing have been put into the deep freezer for 10 days and they don't seem to have been affected by it (apart from now having no bugs / mites on them).

top image: Bitter Vetch Lathyrus linifolius
middle image: Meadow Vetchling Lathyrus pratensis
bottom image: stamp and label

Monday, 20 December 2010

Learning to Relax

In July while looking for bees around YSP me and Brian, the ecologist, collected some solitary bees so we could ID them later. They are now pinned into a box, but i want to use the bees to make some screen prints for the exhibition and they aren't set in a perfect pose. At first i thought i might have to dissect them, take images of the different parts and put them back together with a bit of photoshop magic, but it was suggested i could relax each of the specimens instead and reset them.

Adam, the entomologist, sent me the instructions for making a relaxing jar so a couple of weeks ago i had my first go - with some dead honey bees as a test run.

To make a relaxing jar you will need:

A wide mouth glass jar with a screw on lid
Some absorbent material (news paper, sand or cotton)

Some blotting paper

Ethyl acetate (found in some nail polish removers)

Place the absorbent material in the bottom of the jar and moisten with water and add a drop or two if ethyl acetate. Cut out a disc of blotting paper to fit tightly inside the jar and sits on top of the absorbent material. Place the insect on the blotting paper and close the jar tightly. Let it sit for about 2-3 days, at high humidity. After that period, if the insects are flexible, mount them immediately. If the specimens are still too stiff, keep them in the relaxing jar longer, checking them everyday for signs of mold.

I went and bought some nail varnish remover and made my relaxing jar and put a couple of bees in. Then put the jar in the airing cupboard. I checked on them a few times eager to see if my bees were all floppy and pliable, but after about 3 days i forgot to check...

So, here are my first relaxed bees - a bit of a moldy disaster, having spent over a week in our airing cupboard.
I'm glad i didn't try it with my solitary bees. I'll keep trying on other bees in the next few days to get better at it before attempting it with the solitary bees.

Monday, 13 December 2010


Last week it was the final session of the beekeeping course i've been attending here in Preston.

It was so much fun going to the lessons - Viki, our fabulous tutor, knows masses about keeping bees, bee anatomy, life cycles, pests and disease management, making honey and everything to do with honeybees. I really enjoyed meeting everyone else too - our only connection being the desire to learn more about bees.

I've been assigned a 'bee buddy' called Chris who lives near me and will help with any questions when I set bee hives up - which i'm not going to do, as it goes. Chris has still offered to show me her hives and how she manages her colonies. She has top bar hives that i've never seen before so that will be fascinating.

I loved the class and will miss my Thursday night outings to the church hall.
Above is the certificate i was given to prove i turned up and listened.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Bee News

It's snowing here in Preston today - I wonder how the bees are at the YSP hives in all this snow?

I had an email yesterday from a friend in USA sending a link to an article in The New York Times, and then this morning another friend in Toronto sent a link to the same article:

I've spent the last week doing bee maps and finishing the screen prints of the YSP landscape - i'll bring the prints home next week to start to overlay impressions of the blue and yellow meadows.

I also read and finished Honey and Dust by Piers Moore Ede - the concept is far better than the book itself and was wildly overpriced at 1p on Amazon. I'm not keen on books that state facts but never reference the source (wikipedia i reckon).