We’ve had a sabbatical!

Living Poitou-Charentes

Our new baby!

Apologies for the lack of posts over the last few months – real life took its toll and we had a business to launch that has taken up every waking hour it seems! If you would like to see what we’ve been up to then you can check out our magazine Living Poitou-Charentes which we now publish every other month.

But we haven’t been ignoring our bees, we just haven’t had the time to blog about them so we hope to make amends over the coming summer.

Jon and Kathryn

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Protecting your home

Protecting your home

The unseasonably warm weather that we have been experiencing has meant that the  phone has been constantly ringing over the past month. I wish I could say that I was out, happily picking up swarms hanging from branches in trees but not so. In fact, I’ve only had one external pick up, the rest of the calls have been from home owners with bees where they don’t want them.

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Wild plums

Wild plums

Our wild plums have been fantastic this year – the great weather has meant that we have had a full 3 weeks of sequential blooms getting the bees off to a flying start.

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Wasp season starts

Wasp season starts

Another insect that likes Box is the paper wasp and it too has been bought out by the recent warm weather. They overwinter in groups and at times, we saw up to 50 individuals on the Box hedge.

Generally, these wasps do not attack people unless their nest is threatened so as long as they are away from busy areas, they can be safely left to keep the garden free of aphids and other unwelcome insects.

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Ashy Mining Bee

Ashy Mining Bee

Earlier in the season we disturbed a little Ashy Mining bee whilst doing some earthworks around the house. Our dry, crumbly earth  has been disturbed in many places by our resident moles, providing the perfect habitat for several types of mining bees. We’ve been having a great start to Spring here (hence the lack of posts!) so all the bees are out and preparing for the year ahead.

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The Hairy Footed Flower Bee

The Hairy Footed Flower Bee

What a fabulous name! The Hairy Footed Flower Bee is one of the early bees here, zipping around the garden and settling briefly on the dog violets. Officially known as Anthophora plumipes, they are closely related to the black and white fur bee we saw last year . They form their nests in old walls and ruins so we have the perfect habitat for them with the crumbling walls around the main garden and the dry barn walls.

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Spring is in the air…

Spring is in the air…

We’ve been enjoying some fantastic weather here – days full of sunshine and temperatures rising rapidly. The honey bees have been out in force, making the most of the flowering box (Buxus sempervirens) which we have in large quantities all around the garden. They’ve already been busy with the early flowering willow on warm days through January and February but the volume of pollen entering the hives now is much larger – the sunshine and the box must be to their liking!

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Black & White bees

Black & White bees

Digging in the garden earlier this week, I disturbed this little black and white bee. She’s most likely an Andrena cineraria or Ashy Mining Bee, a solitary bee that lives in the soil normally emerging in March.

I obviously disturbed her a little bit earlier than normal but as it was a warm, sunny day, we’re hoping she managed to fly away and find somewhere to shelter. She spent a while taking in the heat before cleaning herself and heading off….

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Mild weather brings out the bees

Mild weather brings out the bees

Apologies for my recent silence – when the bees are in their quiet season, I get to start my long list of things that don’t get done during bee season. However, I was very pleased to see that in the recent mild weather, all our hives showed some activity as the bees came out to stretch their wings in the sunshine.

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The double-whammy

The double-whammy

This is the photo that ruined my weekend – the sort of sight that strikes fear into any beekeepers heart.

Not only are the bees being picked off as they leave or return to the hive by the huge Asian hornets and torn limb from limb, but this one also has a varroa mite – you can see the mite falling off the bee (the brown blob between the bee’s legs) as the hornet gets to work.

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