Receive email updates

Sow The Seed follows the ups and downs of me, Helen and my husband, Simon - a couple trying to live a simpler life in south-west Wales.

I hope this blog will not only be a good reference and diary for us over the coming years, but will give helpful advice and tips for people trying to do the same thing, or dreaming of doing the same thing.

Find out more on how we got here.

What’s Happening Today

Tasks: Sowing; pruning; weeding; pottering

Harvesting: Cucumber, lettuce, radishes, strawberries, broad beans, potatoes

Eggs this year: 394 (hens) 317 (ducks)


Posts Tagged ‘bees’

Bee in heather

Bee in heather

With February drawing to a close, and bringing an end to winter (meteorologically speaking anyway), there is a sense of spring in the air. Today, began with a frost (ending winter on a cold note), but has turned into a lovely sunny day. The birds and bees are clearly feeling the change in the air, with plenty of chatter in the trees and buzzing in the heather. Our bees seem to have survived the winter, with plenty of activity at the entrance and around the garden. We won’t be taking the top off the hive to inspect the colony more fully just yet, as that would be unfair to subject the bees to the cold, but there seems to be a fair number flying about, which is a good sign. I’ve also spotted the first frog spawn in the wildlife pond, and hopefully next year we might get some in a new pond. Bring on spring!

Broad bean flower - designed for a bee

Broad bean flower – designed for a bee

I always try and plant some broad beans in the autumn in the polytunnel so that we can have an early picking come the following spring. And because of the relatively mild winter, the broad beans grew well over the winter, and are now in full flower. In fact they’ve been in flower for nearly a month now, but there is still no sign of a bean pod forming. The reason being is that no bees (or any other pollinating insect) have ventured into the polytunnel and transferred the pollen from one flower to the next. And without this happening the plant can’t start to set seed (or form a bean pod).

With the leguminous family of plants (of which broad bean is one), one characteristic is the flowers have formed so that they need an insect, preferably something heavy like a bumble bee, to land on the lower petals, which forces open the flower to reveal the pollen-bearing stamens. You can hand pollinate them, using a fine paint brush, but I’ve tried this, and it just doesn’t compare to the action of a bee (and it’s very fiddly unless there are two of you).

There are bees about, but without thinking, I planted the beans at the far end of the polytunnel, and there is no reason for a bee to make it that far down – there is nothing inviting near the door to make them want to enter. So a lesson for next year, plant them nearer the door, or plant an avenue of flowers to lead the insects where I want them. It also is a lesson in why bees are so important to our food supply.

Bees enjoying their new residence!

Bees enjoying their new residence!

Well we didn’t have to wait too long for some new bees to arrive. We’ve been checking the hive every day to see if there has been any activity, and other than the odd bee investigating everything was quiet . However, on Thursday we noticed a number of bees milling about the entrance. And during the day on Friday there was a lot more activity, and today, now it has hot and sunny, the hive is very active. We’re not sure where the swarm came from as we never saw them arrive, but hopefully they’ll like their new home for now, and get busy around our garden. Simon hasn’t inspected them, and will probably leave them be for a while, but it would be good to know what temperament they have (although no doubt I will soon find out if I get in the way of one in the garden).

Empty bee hive ready for bees.

Empty bee hive ready for bees.

After losing our bees last year for an unknown reason, we have decided to try again at “acquiring” some bees. We’ve really noticed the lack of insects this year compared to last year – this may be down to the cold spring, but it must also be due to the absence of bees, so it would be great to get bees back in the garden.

As we did the first year we moved here, we put out an empty hive containing some frames with drawn comb, to try and lure some passing bees. This time though, we’ve positioned the hive in the corner of the field behind the polytunnel, and faced the entrance to the east. If we do get bees, then hopefully they won’t be so much of a nuisance in the main garden as before, and by facing east, not only will they get the early morning sun, but their entrance will be pointing towards the field, and their flight path will not cross with humans!

We’re hopeful that we will lure a swarm to take up residence, having already seen a number of bees interested in the hive. In fact while we were putting together the hive, a bee arrived and was investigating the comb. Given the number of flowers in the field and hedgerows at the moment, there should be plenty of bees about, and they should smell the wax, and go and tell their friends!

So watch this space, and see if we’re lucky enough to get a new colony in 2013.

Bee hive with a view.

Bee hive with a view.

Bee taking an interest.

Bee taking an interest.

Some kind of bee… but not ours

A mysterious occurrence has happened in our beehive over the last few weeks. A few weeks ago, the bees became very active, getting up much earlier than normal and continuing to be out until sunset, and even flying in damp and dreary days. Normally our bees wouldn’t emerge until mid-morning when the sun shone on the hive, and would rarely be out (in any great numbers) when there was a hint of rain in the air. This went on for about a week, and we assumed they must have found a good source of food and were keen to build up supplies for the winter. Read the rest of this entry »

Swarm number two

At last some spring-like (if not summer-like) weather. And it’s not just us who enjoy a bit of sun on our faces – the bees become very active as soon as the sun comes out, and at this time of the year a bit of warmth can result in the bees swarming. Read the rest of this entry »

Thirsty work being a busy bee!

With the country basking in glorious spring sunshine in the last few days, hopefully everyone is out enjoying the warm days while it lasts. The bees have been very active, and have been making use of the bird bath. It’s apparently just as important to have a source of water in the garden for the bees as it is nectar-rich flowers, as bees do like a drink. We think they are particularly thirsty at this time of the year as they are using the water to soften their honey stores, some of which will be crystallised. There won’t be many flowers out yet (or the right sort for bees) so they have to use up their reserves of honey to survive until the spring flow starts. Read the rest of this entry »

Rum in happier times

We’ve had a bad start to the week. Yesterday, we decided to dispatch Rum, one of our Black Rock chickens. She hadn’t been well for the last week, and yesterday she could barely stand up. We gave her one last check over to make sure we hadn’t missed anything like a stuck egg or any swelling but found nothing, so decided to do the deed there and then. Read the rest of this entry »

This year's crop in the making

It’s been a busy few weeks. The start of spring means things are starting to happen in the garden, and there is a flurry of activity at the potting bench. The recent warm weather has seen shoots appear where they should and shouldn’t have. So it’s now the start of the battle against the weeds and slugs to make sure the garden is as productive as it can be. I usually start my morning rounds off now with a slug hunt, some of which are fed to the chickens, and the rest are given a salting. As long as I keep up the routine for the next few weeks I should be able to keep the worst of the slugs at bay. I’m also leaving a few strategic pieces of wood and rotten vegetables around the place, as the slugs will hide under the wood once the sun comes up, and also gravitate to the smell of the rotting vegetables so can usually be found in its vicinity. Read the rest of this entry »

Modified version of the Summer Polaroid Pics template