Tomorrow – saturday 1st september, there is a festival of food at Stubbylee Community Greenhouses, sorry about the short notice! I can’t make it as I am starting a course in bee keeping at offshoots but I will try to get some info about the days activities to follow. At the festival there will be:
A few months ago on one of the few sunny days we have had this year, the bees at offshoots took there opportunity to swarm – all at once! There were three swarms within several hours! I think of a bee swarm as being like a revolution. A swarm occurs when the queen leaves the colony with about 60% of the worker bees. A swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees.
I took some pictures of Phil and Lisa – the offshoots staff – taking care of the bees and recapturing them to put in a new hive.
The swarm forms in a cluster around the queen on a branch close to the original hive. If left like this, scout bees will soon go looking for a new site to host the new hive. The scouts find the best locations and return performing a dance to communicate the location and distance of the potential site. Once other scouts have checked and agreed on a viable location, the swarm will then move. Once this happens the hive is lost.
For the beekeeper, bees swarming can be bad because it weakens the hive significantly. Up to 60% of the bees can be lost due to swarming. It is therefore considered good practice to minimise bee swarms. However retrieving a swarm gives the beekeeper a new hive, so this at least is a consolation and may sometimes be done intentionally, although care must be taken not to weaken the hive to much.
It was important for Phill and Lisa to act quickly to retrieve the bees before they found a new location. Retrieving the hive is a delicate process and involves cutting the branches around the swarm before cutting off the clustered branch.
The cluster is then knocked of into a new hive box containing some honey to coerce the bees into there new home. Once the queen is inside the new hive, the other bees will follow.
On the 15th there was a film crew at the offshoot site, filming for the national lottery awards to be shown in November!
The offshoots team were demonstrating there role in the Upland Moorland Restoration project, commissioned by united utilities.
Offshoots are growing 70,000 plugs of cotton grass as part of the watershead landscape project. The project involves schools and volunteers propagating cotton grass plugs, to be planted upon Worsthorne Moor.
Planting cotton grass helps to reduce patches of eroded and bare peat, which has many benefits. Peat retains carbon and reduces soil erosion. Reducing soil erosion reduces the amount of soil that gets washed into reservoirs thus improving water quality.
Reducing eroded peat also improves the habitat for internationally rare ground nesting birds. Charlotte Weightman RSPB officer, was at Offshoots with some wonderful carvings to show how the watershead landscape project is helping the Twite.
” The twite (Carduelis flavirostris). or Pennine finch’ as it is known locally, is a small brown bird that has bred in the uplands of Britain for at least eight thousand years.
In the nineteenth century, it used to live and breed in 12 English counties, now it is found in just four, and in the last 14 years numbers have nose dived by over 90%, They usually nest in small colonies, but now there are only about 100 breeding pairs, living in about 20 colonies in England – mainly in the South Pennines. Most seed-eating songbirds feed their chicks on insects, but twite are unusual in feeding almost entirely on seed, even their chicks. “
The plight of the twite
” The twite is like no other bird on earth. It has two completely different populations — one in Northern Europe and a well-separated population in the Himalayas. Even in Europe, it only breeds mainly in Norway and Britain, which is highly restrictive. Twite from Norway have never been proven to fly to Britain, so if we lost our British twite, the chances of re-colonisation are very small indeed. This makes the population very precious, so a reduction in breeding numbers anywhere in Britain is a very serious matter. The twite has undergone a steeper decline than any other moorland bird species in England. In recognition of this, nationally the twite is a red-listed bird of conservation concern and a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP priority species.
Traditional farming methods will help both stabilise and hopefully increase the twite numbers— and also have a beneficial effect on other birds, plants and insects. The two most important elements are late-cut hay meadows and lightly-grazed pasture. “
” Provide seed-rich feeding areas, such as late-cut hay meadows, within 2.5km of the moorland nesting areas
Maintain patches of bracken on steeper slopes to provide nesting habitat and ensure these are not burned
Manage moorland to ensure that there are areas of tall heather or bilberry close to the enclosed in-bye, Preferably on gulley sides
Retain weedy areas along field edges, dung heaps, roadside verges or rough patches.
twite will appreciate feeding from annual weeds in root crops or cereals and their stubbles on upland farms “