Thermosolar Bees

Another hot day – this time at the Solar Farm at Berwick. Yesterday evening I had taken the bees down to the site, ready to be transferred this morning. Travelling at night is easier as it means the bees are kept cool, and they settle overnight ready to head out and orient to their new surroundings at first light – about 4am at this time of year. I was joined by bee buddy Paul, Alister, Chair of the Cuckmere Community Solar Company, and Ollie, Clare, and Ivan from Riding Sunbeams.

I arrived at 9am to port the bees across from their nuc box to to the Thermosolar hive which we set up a few weeks ago. I am interested to see how they get on in the hive as firstly, the frames are deep (14 x 12) and that’s a lot of wax for the bees to build. As I don’t use foundation, as you see here, the bees need to be nice and warm to generate the wax combs which will grow to become the bee ‘body’ inside the hive, as the internal temperature needs to be elevated to allow the wax flakes the bees produce to be moulded in to the familiar honeycomb structure. The Thermosolar hive has far greater insulation and this should allow the bees to retain heat within the hive without expending too much energy themselves, or relying on the weather outside being sufficiently warm to encourage them to build wax.

Secondly, I don’t know where the swarm originated from, so I have no idea whether they are from a kept hive or a feral colony. Initial observation would suggest they don’t have any varroa on them but this is often the case with a swarm as the mites reproduce in the brood and emerge on the young bees, and swarm members tend to be the older, more proficient flyers and foragers. I don’t treat my own hives for Varroa so it will be interesting to see how these bees fare.

Thirdly, there have not been hives on the site so far, and until your hive of honeybees inhabits somewhere and starts making honey, you don’t know how much forage there is in the area. I will be monitoring them to see how much they accumulate by way of stores (pollen and nectar) as this will determine our ongoing plans for bees on site. Sustainable beekeeping is about honeybees existing in a way that does not put undue pressure on the available resources for all pollinators, so we will be encouraging more forage provision in the surrounding area to ameliorate the effects of all those extra mouths to feed. As well as ensuring the continued planting of wildflowers at the site, we want to use the bees as a way of encouraging the local community to plant more pollinator plants, and reduce the use of pesticides and chemical treatments in their gardens as of course, this is where the bees will be foraging.

So, back at the bees. Paul and I donned our suits but didn’t bother with the smoker as it was quite windy and we didn’t want to dilute the hive scent and homecoming pheromone more than necessary.

These bees are really lovely and calm; a consideration when there are school groups and other interested parties coming to visit the site.

Within minutes, the bees had found the new entrance and were fanning to provide a marker for their hivemates:

The first thermal varroa treatment will occur in the autumn, and for now the bees will be left to get on with the important task of building up and increasing their population to take advantage of the summer’s nectar and pollen. The bramble and lime trees are now out, and we have weather set fair for the foreseeable so I am hoping the bees will motor on now. I will check them in a couple of weeks to see how they are progressing.

5 Replies to “Thermosolar Bees”

  1. Jen, you are a legend – thanks so much for your energy, your expertise and the brilliant, clear, gentle way you are displaying your leadership for sustainable bee keeping. You have already inspired some plant swapping around Berwick…my orchids are now in three new gardens!

    1. Hurrah! Plant swapping is an excellent way to increase forage – and thank you for your feedback. It’s great to be involved with the project 🙂

  2. Thanks, Jen, it’s great to see the bees being introduced to their new home. Cuckmere is a fantastic addition to our Solar Bee Project, designed to protect bees and promote the additional benefits of community solar farms as havens for biodiversity. We will be watching developments closely. Regards, Nick

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