Gone fishing

Bee keeping forums are a-buzz with beekeepers telling us that they are stacking up supers on their hives which the bees are filling wall-to-wall with honey. Novice beekeepers in contrast, are pleading with their peers for advice and wondering if their hives too should be spilling over with honey now and if not, what are should they do. Me? I’m gone fishing.

Literally. I’m sitting in a little boat just out from a lighthouse. I’ve added supers to the hives and during this wonderful, exceptional, hot spell of weather, have escaped off to let the bees and nature get on with it.  Not that I’m not worried. Will my bees bring in honey at all? Will they abscond in the heat? Will they even cross the queen excluder to put honey in the supers? Have they enough supers? I stuff these thoughts to the far corner of my brain and let my thoughts drift with the boat rocking gently in sea.

A low surprisingly loud, buzz passes my ear. This bumble bee obviously hadn’t read the books that said bees don’t cross an expanse of water as it flew from the mainland to the island. Lucky bee, the island is uninhabited and full of wildflowers.

Bee on wild flower covered in a dusting of white pollen

It not possible to escape from bees I smile to myself.  My thoughts drift and I ponder as I wait for a nibble on the fishing line. How were bees transported across the world in days of old? Back at base with my breakfast of mackerel, I was soon in the shade being swallowed up in a warren of internet rabbit holes.

These included:

 Galway Beekeepers history of bees

“The western honey bee is native to the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. As of the early 1600s, the insect was introduced to North America, with subsequent introductions of other European subspecies two centuries later.”

History of beekeeping in the United States  PDF

“Honey bees were shipped from England and landed in the Colony of Virgina early in 1622. “

“.. Honey bees may have been take to Alaska in 1809 and to California in 1830 by the Russians according to Pellett (1938)…”

Beekeeping in the Mediterranean from Antiquity to the present PDF

“…in ancient Egypt, beehives were placed on boats that sailed along the Nile in search of regions with florescence. The same practice was recorded two thousand years later (in 1740).”

“Also, in Chalkidike, (Northern Greece) until 1960, small boats loaded with beehives circumnavigated the gulfs. In Ios, Cyclades, they transported the beehives with fishing boats Similar accounts exist also for France, Belgium, China and Japan, America and Romania”

The most distracting and delightful find was  My Bee Book 1842 William Charles Cotton – published London 1842 which is available free to read on the web. This is a gem. It is also a very readable, well indexed and a book ahead of its time. Much of the advice in it is as useful today as it was then. Thankfully, beekeepers did hear his pleas not to destroy bees to gain the honey crop.

William Charles Cotton also describes how he intended to transport bees to New Zealand “that is, to the furthest point of the globe.” He proposed to do this by putting the beehives on ice to keep them cool so that they more or less hibernate (page 357). Something that seems akin to the method used by the famous Ian Steppler, the Canadian Beekeeper who protects his bees from the extreme Canadian cold by putting the hives in a shed at a controlled cool temperature.  Wintering honey bees indoors, my set up

I look forward to reading this book from cover to cover.

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