Bungay Community Bees 2011


Bungay Comunity Bees (BCB) has captured the imaginations of many this year. Several other Community Beekeeping groups have begun and we have become known to inspiring organisations such as The Natural Beekeeping Trust, Friends of the Bees (Phil Chandler ‘The Barefoot Beekeeper’), Bees for Development, The Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Buglife, whilst continuing to strengthen our links with the Soil Association and Sustain. The way in which we straddle the worlds of Beekeeping and Community Transition sets us apart from many other Beekeeping groups and is a major strength.

We grew rapidly in numbers and ideas this year. Building upon our burgeoning awareness of the greater picture concerning bees and the many challenges they face, we have formed four project strands:

Beekeeping; bees in hives and training others to become beekeepers/guardians

Education and Outreach; hosting Bungay Beehive Day, talking to interest groups, schools and others

Hives; making top bar hives and exploring different designs with sustainability in mind

Plants for Bees; looking at ways to preserve and promote bee-friendly spaces and gardens

Our website http://www.sustainablebungay.com/bungay-community-bees-2/ is continually changing to reflect the needs of our group. In addition to a complete library of BCB posts we have sub-category archives specific to each strand. There is an electronic membership form and several links to interesting organisations and websites. We are currently working on some resource pages. If you have any ideas you would like to see implemented please contact us via the form on the BCB page, bees@sustainablebungay.com or 01986 948154.





Co-ordinated by Elinor McDowall

2011: We have had a mixed year in terms of colonies in hives. Unfortunately we lost a few colonies for a variety of reasons including cold temperatures, varroa, injured queens and the unexplained evacuation of a hive. However, we do have an extremely strong colony as the winter turns and I hope to build our numbers up this year. Especially as we now have honey extracting equipment and jars!

Our first horizontal Top Bar Hive (hTBH) saw service as home to a swarm and they built some beautiful comb in it. That is, after we removed a very large and majestic (native) hornet and her delicate paper nest…

The Natural Beekeeping Conference gave Eloise and I plenty of food for thought about beekeeping principles and methods, we have shared some of these in a post on the website.

Plans for 2012: We currently have two beekeepers, with four apiary sites and more offered should we need them. Another two members will be trained with Waveney Beekeepers Group and we would like to have between four and eight hives by the end of the summer.

It would be good to build our colonies up early to allow us to access any excess honey stores!



Plants for Bees



Co-ordinated by Rose Titchener.

2011: We have entered into the ‘River of Flowers’ world by sowing a wildflower meadow with Keith and Jeannie Parker at the Flixton apiary site. We will develop this in the future.

Our pilot project with the Three Willows Garden Centre in Bungay has taken off. Although not quite finished, there is a display stand highlighting bees and bee-friendly plants backed up by BCB ‘bee-friendly’ stickers indicating appropriate plants.

Some of us attended the Linking Landscapes event hosted by the Suffolk Naturalists, which was full of great ideas from some great organisations – encouraging us to think big yet again.

Plans for 2012: We are in the process of designing a poster and leaflet to encourage bee-friendly practices.

We will continue communicating with growers, retailers and gardeners. There are several farmers we know of who are using some really interesting techniques in both organic and conventional agriculture that we would like to know more about.

The wildflower meadow and pond will be further developed and we will begin monitoring species of plants and bees/insects at our Flixton apiary.

Once again there will be ‘walks’ led by plant and bee enthusiasts, a chance to learn more about, but more importantly to step back and appreciate what is. From there one can think about how to optimise the spaces around each of us.



Education and Outreach



Co-ordinated by Gemma Parker.

2011: Those that joined us at the end of July already know what a success Bungay Beehive Day was. Held in a marquee on Castle Meadow we had various displays about plants, honeybees, bumblebees and hives. The observation hive (thanks to Bob and Sally Spruce of WBG) was fascinating, as were the slides and activities provided by the Iceni Microscopy Group. Other contributors came from the Natural Beekeeping Trust, the River of Flowers project and our own BCB (plants, healing honey, bumblebees) with a hugely popular ‘bees and flowers’ walk.

We also spent a very busy week with Bungay Primary School (read the blog post) and spoke to several local interest groups.

Plans for 2012: Look out for Bungay Beehive 2012 on July 15th! We shall shortly be asking if anyone wishes to participate, and if so, in what capacity. Let us know if you would like to be involved in any way.

We have bookings to speak to several groups throughout the year, including to the Suffolk Wildlife Trust on March 19th (see diary dates).






Co-ordinated by Mike Southern.

2011: Mike built two hTBH’s for us which we hope to get back into service this year. He is currently in the process of building another two. Ever curious he has been researching other hive types using natural comb as well.

Plans for 2012:
Mike did a wonderful job of organising an (incredibly popular) hTBH building course which has unfortunately had to be cancelled due to our partner organisation being unable to continue. We are currently looking at alternative options. In the meantime Mike is considering a step by step instructional guide to complement his existing blog and photographs.





We have recently had a couple of fun meetings when we used our honey to make honey buns (recipe here) and our wax to make a yarrow salve (blog post here).



Publicity, conferences and networking



Wow! This year we seem to have got everywhere in one way or another; we have presented at a Soil Association Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) conference, been interviewed alongside UEA Beekeepers and Gods Acre Beekeepers for the British Beekeepers Association News (not yet published), had a double page spread in the EADT, several appearances in the Bungay and Beccles Journal and an interview on Radio Suffolk. We have also appeared in ‘A Growing Trade’ by Sustain (downloadable here) and in the new Transition book ‘The Transition Companion’ in addition to getting mentioned in Transition News and on the Transition Show (Radio Stroud) – thanks Mark!

And then there are the many other ‘talks’ our members have given to various groups and friends, I’m sure at the very least most of you will have mentioned us to someone else… I know somebody even mentioned BCB whilst chatting at the worldwide gathering of beekeepers (Apimondia 2011) in Argentina (and the best bit is they had already heard of us!).

Several of us have attended various other conferences (self funded), including The Natural Beekeeping Conference, Linking Landscapes Conference and Transition Camp.



Dates for your Diary 2012:


BCB Meetings:


February 12th 14.30, Old Rectory, Flixton – Making Bug Hotels with Eloise

April 15th 14.30, Old Rectory, Flixton – Planting & Sowing with Rose

June 10th (time yet to be arranged) – Walk/Talk at High Ash Farm, Caister with Chris Skinner

August 19th 14.30, Old Rectory, Flixton – Identifying plants and bees, survey our apiary site

October 14th 14.30, Old Rectory, Flixton – Natural Beekeeping Conference Review with Elinor

December 9th 14.30, Earsham or Flixton – Making & Creating for Christmas

Plants for Bees and the other strands are likely to be holding various extra events/meetings/work days



Other Stuff:


Queen of the sun’ is a new, highly recommended film about bees, to be held at the Waveney Beekeepers headquarters in Barsham, date yet to be confirmed.


March 12th – BCB talking to Suffolk Wildlife Trust, 19.30 Bungay Community Centre

July 15th – Bungay Beehive Day

July 29th – stall at Weston Country Fair, 10.30 – 6.00, volunteers VERY welcome!

August 10th-12th – Natural Beekeeping Conference, West Sussex




Big Thank-you’s !!


So many people have enabled BCB to step beyond the original plan this year, here are some of them:


*Adnams Charity: funded our honey extractor and jars

*Beechwood Bees: once again they donated beekeeping equipment, bees and advice

*Bungay Rainbow Store: gave fun day proceeds to fund Hives and Plants for Bees

*Every single member: nothing could happen without you!

*Volunteers: your hearts and souls (and time) are very much appreciated

*Waveney Beekeepers Group: always kind, supportive, informative and interested in our efforts… As members of BCB you are welcome to their meetings, a diary can be found on their website.


Remember, BCB benefits in many ways from being a community group. Not least from the varying interests and skills of our members. If you have any ideas you think the group could take on please let the rest of us know!




01986 948154


Linking Landscapes: vitally important (but oh so difficult…)

‘every generation grows up in an ever depleted landscape. Growing up in a depleted landscape one thinks that that is normal..’ Oliver Rackham

The Suffolk Naturalists’Society hosted the Linking Landscapes conference in Autumn 2011. The overriding theme was one of response to loss of insects and other wildlife. This loss has resulted from a reduction of habitat and of links between habitats, which then impacts upon plants, insects, birds, mammals…us…

Some responses are large scale and ambitious – they need to be when one is looking at geographical systems – but they also create a framework within which we can all work on a more local scale.

All the speakers were thoroughly engaging and the topics they covered extensive. Rather than go into them in depth I have tried to highlight some key points. Food for thought.

(I also have to admit to missing the first two speakers due to having locked myself out of my house and needing a locksmith before setting out…sorry)

RSPB Futurescapes: Aidan Lonergan

* ‘we are losing nature constantly….living beyond our environmental limits’
* We know that biodiversity is greater in larger areas
* We know that the presence of key species is more likely in larger areas
* We know that biodiversity correlates with habitat variety
* Aim to increase the quality and quantity of biodiversity in protected areas
* Consider the use of wildlife corridors or stepping stones as well
* What are the most important areas to target?
* What is the government doing and how can it work with NGO’s effectively?
* How do we get environmental work mainstreamed (and funded)? – it is essential after all, not just ‘nice’
* How to engage with local people, those who have the area ‘etched on their souls’?

Richard Mabey (who I always think speaks so eloquently about the perils of monoculture or lack of diversity)

* Boundaries are not defined in nature but by us and our expectations of an area
* Using nature ‘reserves’ turns them into ‘reservations’, this creates an artificial boundary and is detrimental to our perception of nature. It gives licence to destroy habitats in favour of ‘development’.
* Be aware of trading species, protecting one may adversely affect another through habitat and ecosystem alteration
* In the USA several large scale projects connecting landscpes are underway, see this one in Washington
* A recent Government Bill allows communities to put forward plans for developing their area, as long as it doesn’t interfere with housing or other ‘essential developments’!

Chris Baines ‘Making nature work for people’

* CATS!!! (and that isn’t said in a positive way..)
* How to reintegrate the environment and us, needs to be as dramatic as the disintegration of the last 50 years
* Conservation needs to make sense to agriculture
* In the UK 90% of us live urban lifestyles
* Green spaces act as breathing spaces, both physiologically and psychologically
* Trees are vital to urban landscapes, shelter from them can reduce heating and cooling of buildings by 10%, they slow the rate of rainfall to the ground, help with air pollution, and provide an excellent base for an ecosystem, they protect against solar radiation and decrease the risk of skin cancer
* If managed well the high speed train link could provide an opportunity for a ‘wildlife corridor’. Connecting urban and rural.
* Need to look at whole systems; the water system needs more water retentive areas upstream, wet woods and meadows instead of overgrazing and intensive farming.

Buglife species-scape: Matt Shardlow

* The B-Lines project in conjunction with the co-operative group is creating wildflower rich corridors across Britain (currently being piloted in Yorkshire). Aim for two lines in each county, each at least field width wide (nesting habitats, lacking in smaller areas such as hedges).
* 3,000,000 ha of flower rich grassland has been lost since WWII, only 100,000 ha remain. 0.3% (6,500 ha) has been recreated with agri-environment schemes. B-Lines could create 150,700 ha at 2.5% of the agri-environment budget (I think I have that right..)

So: we need to create ‘wildlife reserves’, but we also need to expand upon this, to link larger areas together more formally and also to integrate with our local environment. NGO’s, farmers, the public (us) and the government all need to find a way of working together as a necessity not a nicety.

Salve Sunday

December 2011 saw Bungay Community Bees coming together in my kitchen to make a healing yarrow salve, utilizing beeswax left over from honey processing. We were led by Mark, who proved to be both knowledgeable and entertaining – read about the Plants for Life talks, walks and workshops he is organising this year along with the Plant Medicine bed at Bungay library community garden. The sturdy yarrow will be growing among the many herbs for resilience and you can read more about it here.

Making salves is a surprisingly simple process, but one that requires care and attention so as not to overheat the mixture and denature the ingredients.

I’m not quite sure which was my favourite part, the squidging of oily herbs in my fingers, cutting into a cake of wax that I had lovingly (totally mesmerised by the melting wax) tended previously or filling up the pots with a smooth salve. And of course, having a chat over tea, home-made scones and cakes was pretty good as well!

I was initially a little disappointed to learn that this was not the ideal lip salve. But as I am frequently in the habit of injuring my hands it turns out I am more than happy to have the yarrow salve instead. In fact I am sporting a burn on my knuckle right now that has ‘healed’ or at least been far less symptomatic then it would have been in the days pre-yarrow.

Please appreciate the photo’s – I nearly did myself a much larger injury in the pursuit of them!

And the lip salve? Mark tells me you can make a simple, effective (and fragrant one) by very gently heating 1 part beeswax to 4 or 5 parts extra virgin olive oil (do not overheat) in a saucepan or bain Marie, mixing thoroughly and then pouring into small pots.

Further evidence to condemn neonicotinoid pesticides

The following has been sent to us by Friends of the Bees:

News just in provides compelling evidence that Bayer’s neonicotinoid pesticides are a significant cause of bee deaths in Britain and elsewhere, supporting the case that we have been making for years.

The British Bee Keepers Association must now climb down from the fence and clearly state their opposition to the use of these deadly chemicals on agricultural land, or face even more derision and condemnation from beekeepers and other associations both in the UK and abroad.

A key study, published in a respected scientific journal, demonstrates that neonicotinoids are routinely found in lethal doses in samples of dead bees, in seed planter exhaust, in fields where seeds had been planted and in dandelion flowers growing nearby. This shows clear pathways by which bees are being poisoned and removes any last shred of an excuse for the BBKA to continue to toe the pesticide industry line that these substances are ‘safe if used correctly’.

If you keep bees within flying distance of agricultural land where maize, oilseed-rape (Canola) or other crops are grown using clothianidin-coated seed, YOUR BEES ARE IN DANGER. Likewise, all other pollinating insects – including endangered bumblebees – that live on or near that land will be poisoned, as will the birds and reptiles that feed on them. There is also growing evidence of possible long-term effects on human health.


“Our results demonstrate that bees are exposed to these compounds and several other agricultural pesticides in several ways throughout the foraging period. During spring, extremely high levels of clothianidin and thiamethoxam were found in planter exhaust material produced during the planting of treated maize seed. We also found neonicotinoids in the soil of each field we sampled, including unplanted fields. Plants visited by foraging bees (dandelions) growing near these fields were found to contain neonicotinoids as well. This indicates deposition of neonicotinoids on the flowers, uptake by the root system, or both. Dead bees collected near hive entrances during the spring sampling period were found to contain clothianidin as well, although whether exposure was oral (consuming pollen) or by contact (soil/planter dust) is unclear. We also detected the insecticide clothianidin in pollen collected by bees and stored in the hive.”

“These findings clarify some of the mechanisms by which honey bees may be exposed to agricultural pesticides throughout the growing season. These results have implications for a wide range of large-scale annual cropping systems that utilize neonicotinoid seed treatments.”


Read the paper here – http://tinyurl.com/776y97v

PLEASE write to the BBKA and ask them to put their weight behind efforts to ban these deadly toxins from our countryside, while we still have some bees left.

Send an email to bbka@britishbeekeepers.com asking the BBKA to STOP supporting the pesticide industry and to work to have neonicotinoids banned in the UK. (More BBKA email addresses below)

If you are a BBKA member, pass this email around your local association – the more people who understand what is going on, the better. Make sure this issue is discussed and a resolution is passed to BBKA HQ.

If you are a gardener, look out for neonicotinoids in household sprays and compost: the common ones are Imidacloprid, Clothianidin, Thiamethoxam and Fipronil (also found in pet flea treatments). Return all such sprays to the shop and tell the manager why you will not buy them. Make sure your local gardening club / allotment association are aware of the dangers.

Gardeners may also be interested to know that Glyphosate (Roundup) has recently been shown to be much more toxic that Monsanto would like you to believe. In this report, Don Huber, Emeritus Professor at Purdue University and senior scientist on USDA’s National Plant Disease Recovery System, links glyphosate to reduced nutrient availability in plants, increasing plant diseases, the emergence of a new pathogen, animal illness and possible effects on human health.
See http://www.i-sis.org.uk/USDA_scientist_reveals_all.php


PRESIDENT – Martin Smith – martin.smith@bbka.org.uk
CHAIRMAN – Brian Ripley – brian.ripley@bbka.org.uk
VICE CHAIRMAN – Dr David Aston – david.aston@bbka.org.uk
TREASURER – Michael Sheasby – michael.sheasby@bbka.org.uk
BBKA News and Year Book Editor – Sharon Blake m-s.blake@overstratton.fsnet.co.uk
Examinations Board Secretary – Val Francis valfrancis@blueyonder.co.uk
Public Affairs Director – Tim Lovett tjl@dermapharm.co.uk

Dr David Bancalari – david.bancalari@bbka.org.uk
Doug Brown – doug.brown@bbka.org.uk
Chris Deaves – chris.deaves@bbka.org.uk
Brian Dennis – brian.dennis@bbka.org.uk
Dawn Girling – dawn.girling@bbka.org.uk
John Hendrie – john.hendrie@bbka.org.uk
Roger Patterson – roger.patterson@bbka.org.uk
Julian Routh – julian.routh@bbka.org.uk
Michael Young – michael.young@bbka.org.uk

Let’s make 2012 the year that British bee keepers take positive action to clean up our countryside – for the sake of the bees.

Best wishes
Phil Chandler


Thoughts from the first Natural Beekeeping Conference

In August Eloise and I spent a thoroughly enjoyable weekend at the first ever Natural Beekeeping Conference. There were many speakers covering a variety of topics and although we are unable to cover a whole weekends worth in depth, we would like to share some of the key thoughts we came away with. We have tried to write about different things, although there is bound to be some cross-over…

The conference ethos:

The event was hosted by the Natural Beekeeping Alliance, formed by Friends of the Bees and the Natural Beekeeping Trust. As David Heaf pointed out in his opening address ‘natural beekeeping’ is actually an oxymoron. Perhaps we should view beekeeping on a scale of artificiality or intervention, with each of us choosing specific aspects in accordance with our own world view.

Scale of Artificiality

• Put bees in a container
• Provide them with top bars
• Provide frames and foundation
• Put in a mesh floor
• Super or nadir the hive
• Open the hive
• Transport the hive
• Feed the colony; forage, honey, sugar
• Remove honey
• Control swarming
• Suppress drone brood production
• Put in a queen excluder
• Artificial queen breeding
• Remove all honey and feed sugar
• Medicate

All beekeepers want their bees to survive and thrive, they intervene with the best of intentions. Bees are facing a complex array of challenges which are evolving fast in our modern world, so a seemingly effective solution 20 years ago may no longer seem so. Our best way forward is to facilitate the bees in their survival, trying to understand their needs and the effects each of our interventions has, so we can reach an informed decision each and every time we do something (or not).

The conference itself was held under canvas in a valley near the Malverns. That may sound daunting to some, but it was civilised enough to have a bar, wonderful open air hot showers and great local food. The site centered on the ‘village green’, a circle of benches surrounding a fire, which made it really easy to meet and chat with others. For more information see the Green and Away website.

Elinor: things that made me think WOW:

The importance of swarming
Swarming is the natural way for honeybees to increase their colonies and maintain genetic diversity. It also has a useful role in the management of varroa mites and tropilaelaps as the broodless period interrupts their breeding as well. If the bees build their own comb, as with a top bar hive, this occurs in both the old and new colonies.

Bees as part of our ecosystem

The modern view of honeybees is often that of domesticated stock used for honey production. In fact, although we may care for honeybees in our hives (usually with honey production as a priority) they remain a part of the greater ecosystem and of the wild bee population. Therefore any impact we have on the health or genetics of bees in our hives has a further impact on the wider honeybee population.

Extensive rather than intensive beekeeping
Bees kept intensively (hence beyond their natural capabilities) need a high degree of manipulation and medication in an attempt to keep disease free. Extensive beekeeping on the other hand allows bees to live with a low level of many pathogens, strengthening their ability to survive long term. The danger of over-medication has been demonstrated only too clearly in our own population with the advent of antibiotic resistant diseases.


Many beekeepers select for docility and artificially breed queens accordingly. However, recent research has shown that more defensive bees are likely to produce a greater amount of honey. This has certainly been the case with our bees!

There is also a problem with global ‘Melliferisation’, which in effect creates a monoculture – and is therefore vulnerable to new disease. Eloise will talk about this more later on.

Pathogen transmission

Pathogens need their host to survive. Allowing the swarm to leave the hive selects for a pathogen with low virulence, one the bees can survive with. Prevention of swarming interferes with natural selection and selects for a more virulent pathogen strain, increasing the long term risk of colony death.

Hive opening
Within a wild colonies’ nest the bees build cul-de-sacs, areas of warm humid air. We don’t yet fully know the effect of opening the hive, but it may impact not only on temperature but also on hive ‘scent’ and possibly on an antisceptic atmosphere. No-one at the conference advocated unmonitored bees, but there were those who would rarely, if ever, open the brood nest, those that would open if something seemed wrong and those that would open every week. My own feelings at present are to monitor in as many non-invasive ways as possible and to open only when I feel I need to.

Propolis (pro polis or ‘defender of the city’) really is fascinating. Bees have no internal immune system so they use propolis, gathered from resins which are in turn the immune system of plants. Propolis has anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-tumoral and anti-inflammatory properties. Bees use it throughout the hive to reinforce wax, they polish the inside of all cells with it, cap all cells with it and use it to ‘disinfect’ the entrance (like an antisceptic footbath). Should a mouse or something too big for the bees to remove get stung to death inside the hive they will embalm it using propolis.

Most fascinating for me though was the research showing how the chemistry of propolis collected from around the world varies enormously. Not only in response to climate (the most ‘potent’ propolis comes from warm and wet climates) but also in response to prevalent illness. For example in Cameroon it contains compounds effective against sleeping sickness, also in those areas affected by it in Tanzania – but not in those that aren’t- and in the Solomon Islands it contains compounds effective against MRSA.

And on top of all that it smells so good!

Different hive types were on show – all using top bars or frames to house natural comb:

Eloise: my account of the weekend:

We came together for an inspiring few days in beautiful natural surroundings because of our common interest in the plight of bees. There was a range of workshops available in colourful yurts and with our bums firmly planted on cosy straw bales we were ready to take in lots of very interesting information!

Bees for Development, Bees abroad and Wild Bees are the three talks I attended.

Bees for Development:

A name you might be familiar with, their aims are poverty alleviation and biodiversity maintenance.

The biggest problem with beekeeping at present is the desire to homogenise – the global Melliferisation (love that word!) of beekeeping. Apis Mellifera Mellifera, a native of Europe is being exported worldwide because it produces large amounts of honey and is fairly ‘docile’. This is further compounded by bad beekeeping practices. Interestingly there are no indigenous honeybees in the USA.

Extensive beekeeping versus intensive beekeeping, intensive is regarded as modern, extensive is regarded as traditional. Poorer countries practice low cost, effective and much more sustainable beekeeping. Using intensive management techniques we have changed our practices from a “population level” activity to a “box level” activity.

An example from Tanzania: Somebody owns 120 hives, but only 1/3rd are occupied at any time, with only 3-4 hives per apiary. This practice is better for the bees and more cost effective for the beekeeper.

What can we do:
-The essential focus must be on the welfare of the bees, not just the colony but the whole bee population.
-Create a good environment for bees and so encourage good genetics and husbandry

Tom Seeley (an American biologist who has done extensive research into the phenomenon of swarm intelligence) said ”fitness of the bee would be better if we concentrated on reproduction rather than honey production”.

I had no knowledge of the extent of the global Melliferisation of bees before the conference, so this was a real eye opener and provoked thoughts of global campaigning. Just as a beekeeper should consider the whole bee population and not just his own hives. As a member of a group who’s concern is for the plight of bees it is necessary to do some awareness raising of these global practices.

A little anecdote but with big implications I picked up on in this talk: There is no residue free (or organic) honey or bees wax produced in the EU, this is because traces of veterinary products, antibiotics and other chemicals are found in them. Cameroon has organic beeswax which it sells to cosmetics companies.


The next talk I went to was another organisation working outside the EU but on a smaller scale: Bees Abroad.

Their aim is to connect beekeepers from different countries, working on a one to one basis. The beekeeper makes an assessment and builds appropriate hives from local resources (people and materials) with the idea of minimising inputs and prioritising bee health before honey production and pollination services. Their focus is on disease prevention, no importation, natural breeding and working with the bees’ natural swarm impulse.

As they so rightly put it: “Beekeeping as though bees matter”.

The global Melliferisation of bees is a disaster in so many ways. Bees are adapted to different climates, temperate or tropical, and taking them out of their natural habitat and flying them 1000’s of miles away is evidently going to put them at risk of new diseases and increase the likelihood of medication. Native bee populations are also at risk of extinction from imported diseases, thereby impacting upon crucially important species diversity.


The last talk I attended was by Brigit Strawbridge entitled Wild Bees. I really loved this talk because it opened my mind to a whole new fascinating world.

She stressed how there was so much about the decline of the honeybee in the press and so little about other bees!!Wild bees are incredibly important pollinators (one red mason bee can equal 120 honeybees in an orchard).

There are 20000 different species of bee worldwide. With 24 different species of bumblebee alone. Specialist foragers such as the red bum bumblebee (bombus lapidaris) and the tree bee from northern Europe (foxy head, black abdomen and white tail, loves blue tit boxes!) are in decline. There are 200 species of solitary bees, they are very messy bees with some lovely names! Such as the hairy footed flower bee, around in early spring (likes lungwort and comfrey).

A little story about the bumblee and its cuckoo (Each of the ‘big six’ bumblebees has a dedicated cuckoo bee):
Bumblees like to go underground or in places like compost heaps to hibernate. When they come out of hibernation they forage for nectar, make a nest and lay 8-16 eggs. The bumblee will then brood those eggs just like a chicken! She will keep going back and forth to get food. The egg is put in a wax ball surrounded by pollen, near her is a little “honey pot” full of nectar to sustain her while she’s breeding.

28 days later the bumblee emerges as a wet bee with wet wings and feeds from the honey pots. In the nest there are foragers, nurse maids and guard bees. A cuckoo bumblee wishes to take over the nest, usually (but not always) killing the queen. To do this the cuckoo will “hang around” the hive observing and picking up the scent of the hive so that eventually it will be able to enter without being attacked and once inside will kill the Queen and take over the nest!
The Queen keeps reproducing, worker broods survive 4-6 weeks. At some point in the summer the Queen stops producing a certain chemical and starts to lay daughter queens.

The male bumblees get rejected and have to find shelter elsewhere (so if you see a bumblee looking a bit lost and dozy at the end of summer you’ll know he’s just been kicked out!).

The daughter queens go into hibernation and the old queen dies. Voila!

Another curious story is that of buzz pollination within the nightshade family:
Tomatoes hold on to their pollen really strongly, the bumblee has to buzz very fast in front of the flower until at last it gives up its pollen!!

Having delved into this magical world, it was a great shock to then find that just like honeybees, bumble bees are now bred in boxes and shipped all around the world. They are used for the pollenisation of huge polytunnels, but as they cannot be allowed to become part of the native population they are exterminated once their work is done.

What can be done:
-Ask local councils to change bedding/verge plants to bee friendly plants, get public support in doing this
-campaign for the ban of neo-nicotinoid pesticides (impairs insects ability to function, decreases immune system), ask local garden centres and golf courses whether they sell products that contain imedaclopred (vine weevil and soil treatment), explain the dangers of this product to insects.
-Lobby government
-Get a giant magnifying glass and explore your garden in the spring and summer, delve into that magical world and make our gardens a really safe haven for bees!

Brigit Strawbridge has posted many interesting films of discoveries she has made in her garden on you tube with the name pixie bagginsa.

Brigit Stawbridge:”You cannot cause harm to that which you know and love”.

As is probably evident we had very different experiences, even the talks we went to together meant different things to each of us. However, we both came away from the experience with our thoughts challenged and with a different relationship with ‘our’ bees.

The Natural Beekeeping Conference 2012 is being held at Emerson College, West Sussex on 10th-12th August. You can register your interest here.

Bonkers about Bees at Bungay Primary School

Earlier this year Bungay Community Bees spent a week with Bungay Primary School. First and foremost it was fun and inspiring – hopefully on both sides. I was particularly impressed with how well the children engaged with us and how much information they soaked up. One of the greatest challenges for us was finding ways to present information to such a wide range of ages. In addition, Key Stage 1 (age 5-7) had been studying bees for 5 weeks already, but the Foundation Unit (age 3-5) and Key Stage 2 (age 7-9) were seeing us as part of their Nature Week.

A slideshow of our bees and an introduction to pollination was followed by a visit to each class with beekeeping suits, equipment and a hive for the children to explore. They loved getting into the (rather large!) suits and gloves, which were sticky and brown with delicious smelling propolis. This gave us the opportunity to talk about processes involved with keeping bees, the dynamics of a colony and some basic bee anatomy and physiology.

We then participated in sharing sessions with the children and their relatives, running ‘workstations’ including a honeybee quiz, collages, computer drawings and learning to waggledance. All the children planted sunflower seeds with Mark, one of which is pictured above, which was very popular and a great way to discuss bee-friendly planting and pollination. Just as popular was a honey-biscuit decorating activity with Gemma, finding out about the ingredients and processes involved. Adults seemed to enjoy the quiz – and lets face it bees are absolutely amazing, with enough ‘fun facts’ to entertain anyone!

Looking Back. Looking Forward: ROUND UP OF THE 2011


Sustainable Bungay is one of 400+ Transition initiatives in towns and bio-regions of the UK. All of us are about creating a localised, low-carbon culture, in the face of peak resources, climate change and the economic recession. We work towards making our communities more resilient in times of change, in areas ranging from energy reduction to local food distribution. In Bungay we have a core group and several small working parties and everyone is welcome to join any of our enterprises. Here’s a month-by-month look at our 2011 events and projects.

JANUARY We set the theme for the year at our Green Drinks on Shifting Cultural Values. Rupert Read talks about the individual and community response to cuts in public services.

FEBRUARY SB joins forces for tree planting day at the co-operative GreenGrow in Ilketshall, Bungay Community Bees plans a busy year ahead. Biodiesel group process their first oil! Save Bungay Library campaign starts with 200 people at a Read-In. Hazel screen installed at the Library Community Garden.

MARCH Six members of SB have follow-up talks with Peter Aldous MP for the Stop Climate Chaos national lobby about climate change and discuss fuel poverty and feed-in tariffs. Green Drinks highlights Zero Waste in advance of our spring Give and Take Day. Library campaign hosts A World Book Night and Telling Tales event.

APRIL Second film night in partnership with Waveney Greenpeace shows The Economics of Happiness. BCB’s hand-crafted top bar hives are ready for installation. Green Drinks discusses Social Enterprise.

MAY Give and Grow seedling swap at the Library courtyard – plants and seeds, vegetables, flowers and fruit bushes. Wild Flowers for Butterflies and Bees bed comes into bloom. First Happy Mondays at the Community Kitchen gets off to a delicious start. Film of the month, Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change, sparks a lively debate. BCB teaches bee-awareness at Bungay Primary School.

JUNE Sustainable Bungay joins forces with Beccles and Bungay Cycle Strategy for Bike Week. Green Drinks goes on the road to St. Peter’s Brewery to discuss Community Transport. Filmgoers discuss Gasland and the dire consequences of  gas “fracking” (now being trialled in the UK). Musical Midsummer evening to celebrate the Library Community Garden.

JULY Bungay Beehive Day on Castle Meadow is a great success! Hundreds of people come to stalls, talks and bee walk round the town. We gather under the lime trees of the Grammar School Playing field for our annual Summer Picnic and rounders game. We bring our new-look stall to All Under One Roof at Emmanuel Church.

AUGUST We eat wonderful curries at Happy Mondays at the Community Centre and take home veg from the Abundance table. Bungay Community Bees takes part in the Co-op Family Fun Day, which raises £1142 for our work to ensure a sustainable future for bees (many thanks everyone!). Seeds are sown for Bungay River of Flowers project. Elinor McDowall and Eloise Wilkinson report back from the first Natural Beekeeping Conference.

SEPTEMBER SB’s Nick Watts heads up a great Transition Tea Tent crew at the Greenpeace Fair and we sell a LOT of cakes. We host our fourth Give and Take Day at the Chaucer Club and divert van-loads of furniture, clothes, books, pots and pans from landfill. Plants for Bees’ first wildflower meadow is sown at Flixton.

OCTOBER Abundance project is in full swing at our Autumn Produce Exchange, with boxes of local fruit for swapping and pressing. Sewing Sundays begin again at the Library. Visit to St. James’ Village Orchard, followed by film about eco-communities in Europe, The New We. Dividing roots and winter preparation at the Library Community Garden. Happy Mondays! cooks autumn fare. BCB bakes honey cakes.

NOVEMBER BCB’s first honey harvest and film night with Waveney Beekeepers. Happy Mondays has its first “official” evening, and serves 44 people at one table. SB travel to Norwich to hear Rob Hopkins talk about the new book, The Transition Companion and see film, Norwich in Transition, featuring SB’s own Josiah Meldrum (Norwich FarmShare) and Charlotte Du Cann (communications).

DECEMBER Mark “Plants for Life” Watson gives a salve making workshop with medicine herbs and beeswax from the community hives. We celebrate the year together at our annual Christmas Party and plan ahead for 2012. Thank you to everyone who came to our events and took part in our activities. See you soon!

Charlotte Du Cann

Green Drinks – Back for 2012 | 21st February & 20th March

Green Drinks will make a welcome return in 2012 after a break in the autumn. They will follow the usual themed format and we’re inviting ‘expert conversationalists’ who can answer our questions about a specific subject, or steer our discussions along fruitful paths.

The first evening of the New Year will focus on sharing as a practical way of better using resources, building stronger communities and saving money. Sophie Garrett, founder of Yours to Share, will talk to us about the benefits of co-working, car sharing, land sharing and other forms of ‘fractional’ ownership.

In March we’ll be joined by members of the GreenGrow co-operative, who will talk to us about community food growing. Founded a couple of years ago by members of the Common Ground co-op on land they own in Ilketshall St. Andrew, GreenGrow has gone from strength to strength – establishing a box scheme, planting an orchard, erecting polytunnels and growing salads for local restaurants as well as offering training and volunteering opportunities.

All welcome!

Tue 21st Feb 19:30: Sophie Garrett, Shared ownership

Tue 20th Mar 19:30: GreenGrow, Community food growing

Skills and Resources

This year we will be compiling a list of the skills, resources and interests that people might be willing to share with others. If anyone is working on a project or wants to learn a new skill, they could contact someone else on the list for advice on a subject (apple pruning, internet blogging, small business accounting etc.), or for practical help (e.g. with computer graphics, house sitting, car sharing etc), or to borrow a piece of equipment (hedge loppers, spiral binding machine, apple press, vegetable dehydrator etc).

The idea is to create a list which would help us all to network and share together more of who we are and what we’ve got. Everyone has a lot of knowledge, skills and resources which could be either offered freely, swapped, bartered or charged for or shared just for the fun and pleasure of sharing things with like-minded or interested souls.

Only those who want to be on the list need contribute their details. This list is open to everyone on the Sustainable Bungay Google Group and the deadline for initial contributions is 21st January 2012.

You can join the Sustainable Bungay Google Group here