Please do come along to our Autumn Fair this Sunday, 2nd October between 11am and 3pm. Attractions include an array of artisan food and drink stalls, handmade craft stalls, local charities and activities for all the family, including a falconry display. We are also holding a display of fruit and vegetables grown on our allotments. We even have honey from our own bees. Come along and help us celebrate Autumn!
As the leaves from trees begin to fall, we invite you to our Autumn Fair on Sunday 4th October from 11am to 3pm. We will have home baked produce, artisan foods, arts and crafts stalls, and plenty of the other delights to view, sample and buy.
The ever popular food marquee will once more be filled with culinary delights to entertain your taste buds. There will be home baked cakes and savouries, jams and pickles, the blink-and-it’s-gone pork bap stall and our own Court Lane Honey from our bees who have been working hard this summer to supply you with sweet yummy goodness. There will also be local food outlets to entice you even more. Teas and coffees will be available. Oh yes, and we are also having a real ale stall with local Midlands ales.
ARTS & CRAFTS MARQUEE
In our other marquee, there will be local artists with their creative wares for you to take home. From pottery to jewellery to other hand crafted items. There will also be a varied collection of stalls to suit your own interests and pursuits, including stalls selling pet foods, books and you can even have a Tarot reading.
We have invited several charities to promote their causes. Please visit Snuffles Hedgehog Rescue, RSPB, Cats Protection and a stall supporting dogs for the blind.
COMMUNITY GARDEN, VEGETABLE SHOW, TALLEST SUNFLOWER
Our plot holders do enjoy growing vegetables, so you can visit our Community Garden where vegetables will be on display in the Portacabin and you can explore the garden with it’s varied nooks and crannies. Please be aware although we welcome visitors to our Community Garden, please do not go onto any allotment plots. See if you can spot the winner of our Tallest Sunflower competition.
We are not a site to exclude anyone so please bring your children to not only enjoy the food and crafts but also to take part in the many activities for children. From Tin Can Alley to a Bouncy Castle (providing it’s not too windy or wet).
Less than two weeks to go until our annual Spring Fair on Sunday 17th May 2015. Opening times 11am until 3pm. We are sure it is going to be our biggest and best ever event at Court Lane Allotments.
On the grass at the top of the site will be a range of craft and charity stalls. There will be more stalls than ever, with some familiar faces and some stallholders joining us for the first time. When you have had a browse, try your aim at football crazy & tin can alley.
The younger children will not be left out with face painting. Then let them meet the donkeys from The Donkey Sanctuary.
In the centre of the site you can meet the chickens, buy free-range eggs and local honey, and come face to face with live honey bees (weather permitting).
Our own plant stall will be offering a selection of home grown vegetable plants for you to try your hand at growing your own, along with trays of popular bedding plants and shrubs.
Step inside the food & drinks marquee to find a mouth-watering array of local artisan produce, grab a seat and treat yourself to a slice of homemade cake and coffee, or try one of our fabulous hot British pork baps with a choice of trimmings (don’t leave it too late as these sell out very quickly).
A quick update to remind everyone that the Birmingham Annual Gardening Show takes place this weekend 31st August/1st September 2013 at Bordesley Green Allotments, directly off Bordesley Green Road, B9 5PD from 10 am to 5 pm.
Entry and parking are free. Bus 97 passes the entrance, and 11 and 28 stop nearby.
3 of our own plot holders will be presented with prizes for 1st place in the Best Plot, and 1st and 3rd places in the Best Newcomer competitions. Prizegiving starts at 3pm on Sunday.
Please go along and enjoy the allotment displays from sites all over Birmingham. There will be bees to see, plants to buy and refreshments all day.
Our bee colonies at Court Lane Allotments have been very busily collecting nectar and turning it into lovely honey. We have extracted a second super last week and this batch of honey is much lighter in colour than the batch we had at the Spring Fair. This reflects the different flowers that the bees have been foraging on.
There are jars of honey for sale in the Court Lane Allotments shop at £4.50 per lb jar.
The site shop is open every Saturday and Sundaybetween 11am and 3pm.
Due to the exceptionally dry and warm Spring weather (according to the weathermen it’s been the driest since the 1953), like other bee colonies in the region, some of the allotment bees have begun to swarm. We had a routine visit on Monday from Julian Routh, a colleague from Sutton Coldfield and North Birmingham Beekeepers who is also a Seasonal Bee Inspector. He was very impressed with our bees and stated that wanting to swarm was the sign of a happy, healthy bee colony.
Swarming is the term used to describe the normal method by which honey bee colonies reproduce. The bees start by raising new cells with queen larvae in (these will form a new colony in the original hive). Then the original queen and up to 50% of the flying bees take off and form a swarm. A large swarm will make a considerable amount of noise as it is flying around and can be quite a frightening sight to the non-beekeeper. It is no small wonder that people are frightened, as there is little in the media to familiarise everybody with honey bee swarms, so that they will not be alarmed when a swarm does occur. The so-called ‘killer bees’ (or more correctly, Africanised honeybees) beloved of movie-makers DO NOT OCCUR IN THE UK.
Although people may think swarms are terrifying, in fact the bees are normally very docile and do not sting unless severely provoked. Even if bees land on you, they will simply fly away again if you let them. I remember Julian telling us a story of his young daughter in the middle of a swarm wearing only a light summer dress, being completely unharmed. This is because bees normally sting only in defense of their home – and a swarm does not have a home to defend. Their main concern is to stay together, protect and guide their queen, and get to the new home. If they get caught in your hair or clothes it is possible they may sting you but in general they are not after you. If bees land on your hair, do not flap at them or try to brush them away – you will rub them into your hair and they will then sting! Just keep your hands in your pockets and let them fly away when they are ready. Please do not try to swat them – bees like slow movements, so move slowly and calmly. Here is a video of a swarm showing how calm the bees are when swarming.
Lin and Ming with assistance from Julie, Rob and Leo managed to recapture both the Court Lane swarms. But as Winnie the Pooh says, “you never can tell with bees” and one of the swarms has since taken exception to the nice new home we provided for them and absconded. The other swarm is already settling in to their temporary new home and is drawing out comb for the queen to lay in.
As well as our own bees, Court Lane Allotments are in an area of Birmingham where there are many beekeepers, several of whom may have bees swarming at present. If you see any swarms of bees at the allotments, the best thing to do is step slowly and calmly away from the area. Try not to shout or wave your arms about as the bees may perceive this as threatening behaviour. Please do contact Lin (plot 45) and Ming (plot 14), the Court Lane Allotment Beekeepers, who are used to handling swarms and will come and deal with the bees. If we are not around, then either Julie or Ken have our contact details.
We are also happy to talk to any plot holder about what is happening with the bees, at any time, and welcome interested observers when we are carrying out beekeeping duties.
As the bees are very active at present there is always a slight risk of being stung. This is what to do if that happens.
Firstly, immediately scrape out the sting using a sideways action with a fingernail. This stops any further bee venom being injected into the wound.
Retreat away from the area as bee stings exude a pheromone which may attract more bees. If possible wash the area to remove the pheromone smell and to clean the skin to prevent bacteria entering.
If possible, apply a thin smear of Antihistamine cream to the affected area. There is a tube of Antihistamine Cream in the portacabin, by the sink, which can be used to treat any type of insect sting.
The area around the sting may swell up or itch for a day or two, so continue with the Antihistamine until it lessens.
It was reported to me yesterday, that one of the schools saw what they thought were bees coming and going underneath the ramp to the raised bed. What they saw were, in fact, wasps. I thought it might be useful for a little comparison information for everybody on site who might be unsure what they are seeing on our around their plot.
Wasps are very brightly striped black and yellow
Wasps are social insects living in colonies inside nests that they build from wood pulp. The most common locations for these nests are in buildings are roof spaces, airbricks and wall cavities. Outside nests are often built in garden sheds, holes in trees, hedges and soil banks. The building of each nest starts in Spring when the fertilised queen wasps emerge from hibernation and search for suitable sites to rear new colonies. This is usually around Easter time but can vary enormously depending on the weather and temperature. The queen continues to lay eggs throughout Summer until early Autumn. By this time most people will be aware of the presence of a nest by the continual wasp activity around the entrance point. As the wasp season nears its end, in late Summer, the worker wasps become more aggressive. This is due to the queen ceasing to lay eggs. With no larvae to feed the worker wasps seek sweet substances on which to feed themselves. A favoured source of food is fallen, over ripe fruit. It is the ingesting of the often-fermenting juices that contribute greatly to the worker wasp’s increasingly aggressive behaviour. It is also at this time of year that they more frequently come into contact with humans. With the onset of cold weather, the workers and the resident queen all die. The timing of this can vary enormously and be anywhere from October to December, normally the first ground frost is regarded as the point from which the nest will rapidly die off. The nest is then empty and will never be used again. It can be left alone as it will not affect the chances of problems in future years or if it is certain that all activity has ceased then it can be removed.
Control of wasps:
Firstly we should consider whether or not it is absolutely necessary to destroy a nest, how much of a problem is it causing? Could it safely be left alone? Remember, wasps are beneficial to our allotments, helping with pollination and keeping other pests under control. The nest will die off naturally, even if left untouched.
Whilst a honey bee looks somewhat similar to a wasp at first glance, it is much less brightly striped and has a more golden/brown colour combination.
Honey bees are also much less aggressive than wasps and will only sting if they fear for the life of the colony. As the weather is still quite warm, our bees are out and about flying to collect pollen and nectar, but the only place they will be returning to is the Court Lane Allotments’ apiary, where their hives are securely located and are cared for by our qualified beekeepers, myself and Ming.
If you see what you think is a bee, going into compost heaps or holes in the ground, I can reassure you that they are definitely not our honey bees – they will be either wasps or ground nesting species of solitary bees or bumble bees.
For comparison – in this image you can see 4 Bumble Bees on the left and a wasp below. Honey bees (on the right) are much less brightly marked. (Apologies for the quality – it’s a really tiny pic and I can’t see how to make it any bigger than this without losing the definition – but I thought it was a good pic for comparing them alongside one another).
I hope that helps everyone with identification. If you have any questions (about wasps or bees), please do not hesitate to ask me (Lin – plot 45).
Julian is a Master Beekeeper and has kept bees for over 30 years. He also gives lectures on beekeeping as well as judging Honey Shows and was recently co-opted to the Education and Husbandry Committee of the British Beekeepers’ Association.
He gave a brief desription of other pollinating insects such as bumble bees, solitary bees and wasps, before going on the describe the lifecycle of the honey bee, the yearly cycle of what goes on inside a honey bee colony and then how beekeepers interact with them to manage a colony of bees throughout the year. He then invited everyone to have a closer look at the observation hive and described to us what was going on. As a newly qualified beekeeper, it was useful to have an update in a nutshell and I hope it was of interest to those who wanted to know more about these fascinating insects.
Not many people know that when honey bees swarm they are actually at their most docile. Beekeepers have been known to put their bare hand into a swarm of bees without harm (though it not advised for an untrained person to attempt to do the same). Julian told us of his daughter who, as a small child, would fearlessly help him with beekeeping tasks, wearing only a summer dress and a beekeeping veil.
He also went on to describe the wonderfully named “waggle dance” whereby a bee returning from foraging will inform other bees of a nectar source by dancing in a figure of eight pattern. Research has been done to establish that the angle of the waggle run on the face of the honey comb has been shown to equate to the angle of the food source in relation to the sun. The speed and length of the waggle run determines how far away the food source is. This is something I’ve been reading up about recently, having seen bees doing it in my own garden hive.
He explained how honey bees concentrate nectar into honey by evaporating water out of it. The evaporation also helps to regulate hive temperature and humidity. The bees achieve this by fanning their wings to extract moisture from the air in a way not dissimilar to an air conditioner. I have just completed my first honey harvest from my hive at home and any honey the bees now collect, up until the end of the season, will be for them to use as their winter stores.
Before the talk, Julian had a tour of our Court Lane Allotments apiary enclosure and was very complimentary. He said it had obviously been developed with the utmost concern for the safety of both bees and plot holders and we have “an ideal set up”, which is a credit to Court Lane Allotments and our qualified beekeepers. For those of you who haven’t yet taken the opportunity to have a closer look, each hive faces a slightly different direction so that the bees won’t get confused as to which hive is theirs and there is plenty of space to work around each hive. The tree belt behind the apiary provides shelter from easterly winds. I asked Julian about the number of colonies we have at present, as I had recently been informed that a plot holder was concerned about the welfare of the bees. He commented that we have space in our apiary for up to 8 hives if we want, but Ming and I told him we were quite happy with the 4 colonies we have at the moment, which should produce some lovely honey for Court Lane Allotments next year.
Julian is very happy to discuss any further questions that anyone may have about our Court Lane Allotment bees and beekeeping in general. Anybody wishing to ask questions can contact Ming (plot 14) or myself (plot 45) or comment on this site, and we will be very happy to discuss bees. In fact, we have already been approached by one of the Court Lane plot holders who is interested in learning more about beekeeping.
Many thanks to Julian for volunteering to share with us, free of charge, his time and expertise. Those attending the talk were well provided for with free refreshments and lovely cakes baked and donated by volunteers. Any donations received went to the charity Bees Abroad which the Beekeeping Association supports.
Several plotholders have been wondering if the bees on their plots are our own honeybees or other types of bee. There is a good link on the website for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust which shows how different bees look and how to recognise the most common species in the UK.
Take some time out and see how many you can recognise.