Season End for the Gallery Beekeepers

It’s come to the end of the beekeeping year where we need to put our girls to bed for the winter. This comes with some good news and some bad news. The good news is that we have managed to harvest over triple last year’s honey crop and still left plenty for the bees to survive the winter months. The bad news is that it would seem our oldest hive is currently queenless, it would seem that the queen we saw has either not mated in time or has been pushed out by the colony - she was a small looking queen. This is another queen related situation where we can make several educated guesses as to why this has happened but ultimately we don’t know. This is a shame as without a laying queen the colony will gradually die over the winter which brings much sadness. We will have to clean and sanitise the hive come springtime and bring in another nucleus of bees. Just a matter of fact for the life of a beekeeper.

On a lighter note don’t forget that our annual honey tasting evening is coming up - Bee-Raphaelite honey & River of Flowers - 6pm Thursday 23rd October. Please come along and attend the talks to find out what interesting ‘green’ things are happening and sample the lovely honey/cider delights. Should be a great evening at the gallery.

And here’s a little gallery of pictures…

The rooftop garden


Busy bees


David & John on inspection duties


Jennifer Ingram from the Cornerhouse coming over to help


And as a final note, our oldest hive in it’s final queenless days has gotten quite irritable, the colony does not like our presence or interference and they let us know. It would seem a member of the team gets stung each time we head up, I was the unlucky one this time with a big fat sting on the wrist. Takes our yearly sting tally up to about 6.

Bee-Raphaelite honey & River of Flowers - 6pm Thursday 23rd October

To all our lovely followers it has come to that harvest time of year again where our bumper crop of honey is being extracted, filtered, jarred, and labelled.

As part of our Thursday late program we will be hosting a honey themed event at the gallery on Thursday 23rd October from 6pm where the first batch of this season’s Bee-Raphaelite honey will be on sale. As well as some honey-tasting there will be talks from River of Flowers and Grow Wild, cider from local producers Moss Cider and free wildflower seeds from Seedball.

Please stop by and sample the produce of some of nature’s finest artists.


Honey & Herb Cocktail Night - Thursday September 18th

As part of Thursday Lates we will be hosting a cocktail night on Thursday 18th September. Ross and Charlotte, from the restaurant, will be creating bespoke cocktails using the honey from our hives and herbs from our rooftop garden in a splendid alcohol celebration of all things rooftop!

There will be a non-alcoholic one as well.

Please invite yourselves and everyone you know to come along. Admission and music are free, cocktails will be £5.00 each. Open till 9pm.

All Change in the Gallery Hives

Our hives this year are simply b(l)ooming, their colony strength is easily more than double that of last season’s peak. They are filling every frame of every box. We’ve even reached the position this week where the bees are collecting nectar fast enough that we are having to clear a super on each hive so that we may extract the honey and then put the super back on the hive. That means as of yesterday both hives had almost filled 3 supers worth of honey each, 2 of which were only fresh on the hives last week. That’s the culmination of a mild winter and a nice variable summer which has seen good temperatures mixed with some rain to keep the flowers beautiful and the nectar flow flowing.

We’ve also had an interesting development regarding the queens which had up until now been going about their business in a regular kind of way. Ever since the start of the good weather we’ve seen various amounts of play cups and queen cells being created. Nothing out of the ordinary there, we’ve kept pulling them down as part of our swarm management. We should probably have performed a shook swarm we had so many queen cells but we’ve not been brave enough to do that yet. And well I’m sure you can see where this is going… We now think that both hives have a new queen. The new hive definitely has a new queen, last week upon checking through the hive there was no evidence of any queen cells and the marked queen with a bright pink disc on her back was nowhere to be seen and with that disc she was always easy to see. The hive was checked through again just to be sure and instead an unmarked queen was found running around. The old hive also had an absence of queen cells but also an absence of brood, this would indicate a laying queen wasn’t present. On a careful look through a queen was found scurrying around, this could or could not be a new virgin queen after-all this hive has had a queen who stopped laying for a couple of weeks before. We shall see how each hive progresses.

It does raise the question - have either of our hives swarmed? When a hive swarms a good portion of the foraging bees go with the old queen to find a new home, however both of our hives look like they haven’t lost any of their population, there are still many bees wandering around the hive with pollen in the pockets meaning they’ve been off foraging. Or have the queens just been superceded for whatever reason? We will never know. You make a series of educated guesses but you never can be sure exactly what has happened, you just believe the colony knows what it’s doing.

Quite a few weeks ago we did have a cheeky intruder in the hive which we captured a pic of. See if you can spot the big hairy cousin of our honey bees. The girls didn’t seem to mind their sister-from-another-mother popping in for a drink.

And here’s 2 pics from yesterday with the girls forming circles around some broken comb not wanting to waste any of their hard worked honey.

A Wild Orchard ‘pops up’ in the City

Manchester Art Gallery will be celebrating the first ever River of Flowers Manchester with a Pop Up Wild Orchard of Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris) trees on Saturday 24 May 2014 from 10am when the gallery opens, until 5pm. Visitors can take part at 11am by planting an all-white bee pasture under the trees, the native wildflowers, such as Queen Anne’s Lace and Oxeye Daisy, representing the blank whiteness of a painter’s canvas.

This event will also launch the first ever Chelsea Fringe Festival event in Manchester. The Chelsea Fringe is an alternative garden festival giving participants the freedom and opportunity to express themselves through the medium of plants and gardens.

The instant orchard with its wild understorey will introduce new floral forage for bees and other pollinators in the city centre. It will remain outside the Manchester Art Gallery, which already sports beehives and a wildflower garden on its roof, for a couple of months after which the trees and wildflowers will migrate to permanent growing spaces in Moss Side and Levenshulme provided by community groups and other organisations. These include the Friends of Platt Fields Park and Whitworth Park, Moss Cider Project, Anchor Café, Moss Gardens, Incredible Edible Levenshulme and Friends of the Fallowfield Loop.

River of Flowers works with communities in different cities to create trails or ‘rivers’ of wildflower forage and homes for bees, butterflies and other pollinators in the urban landscape. The River of Flowers Manchester is sponsored by Artists Project Earth, a collective of artists, scientists, journalists, environmentalists, film makers and authors, who believe passionately in raising awareness about climate change, and Grow Wild, a dynamic £10.5m mass participation programme, led by Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew to bring people and communities together to inspire transformations of unloved urban spaces, gardens and windowsills with nature into wildlife-friendly wild flower patches.

Wildflower Workshop Time: 11:00 am
Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Steet, Manchester, M2 3JL  
How to get there:

Contact details:
Manchester Art Gallery: John Mouncey
t: ++ 44 (0) 161 235 8808
f: ++ 44 (0) 161 274 7416

River of Flowers: Kathryn Lwin
t: ++44 (0) 208 292 3894
m: ++44 (0) 7921 068 316


River of Flowers is a nonprofit, eco-social enterprise working with
communities to create wildflower areas in urban landscapes as trails or ‘rivers’ of floral forage for bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators. Since River of Flowers recommends planting for habitat too, we include wild flowering trees as well as wildflowers, and advise on growing ‘urban meadows’ on buildings (rooftops, balconies), along lines of transport (pavements, roadside verges, roundabouts, towpaths, waterways, railways), in open spaces (city parks, urban woodland, playgrounds, playing fields, housing estates, cemeteries, community and private gardens), with food (urban orchards, city farms, allotments) and on vacant lots such as brownfield sites.


Wild verge © River of Flowers

In spring 2014, River of Flowers will be working with different organisations and community groups in Manchester, as well as in Bristol and York, thanks to support from Artists Project Earth, a collective of artists, scientists, journalists, environmentalists, film makers and authors, who believe passionately in raising awareness about what climate change means to the world and in educating and helping people to overcome the obstacles to achieving a low carbon lifestyle. Greening the city is one way to do this. Plants cool, clean, soften and beautify the urban landscape, and make it fit for people. Growing wildflowers and wild flowering trees makes it fit for pollinators.

Our partners in Manchester, include Manchester Art Gallery, the start organisation of the River of Flowers Manchester, which already sports beehives and a wildflower meadow on its roof and will be hosting the first all-white bee pasture in the UK and an orchard of wild crab apple trees in May 2014. The trees will eventually be taken to spaces in Moss Side and Levenshulme. The Manchester Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester University and Manchester Metropolitan University have sites along the Oxford Road corridor. Avenues and Alleyways, will be adding wildflowers to the floral trail created through the alleyways close to Whitworth Park, the Friends of Whitworth Park will be planting more wildflower areas in the park, Mosscider via the Moss Gardens and the Anchor Café in Mosside, and Incredible Edible Levenshulme will be providing sites for the crab apple orchard and it’s understorey of native wildflowers. The River of Flowers Manchester is here.

River of Flowers would like to hear from community groups and other
organisations in Manchester, which would like to create wild areas at their sites and join the River of Flowers. Contact us here: if you would like to know more.

See also Envirolution UK - a community cooperative in Greater Manchester whose next festival is Saturday 24th May.

Watch the River of Flowers video

The Girls are Buzzin’

Myself and Marie went on the roof today with some nice but not too hot weather in the sky above. Over the past couple of weeks the Gallery hives have shown a good increase in numbers and today was no exception. Both of the hives are storing plenty of honey in the single supers and have started to draw out the comb of the newer frames inserted at the start of this bee season. The strength of the colonies is much improved over this time last year are far more in line with what you would expect. We have had to remove several playcups and queen cells, signs that we may need to practice some swarm control measures, something that so far has been limited to destroying queen cells. We saw both queen bees and both have been busy laying eggs as there was a lot of uncapped and capped brood within the brood box. As a beekeeper you feel so proud of them all! Both colonies had a calm nature about them today and we continue to not use a smoker, blowing on them seems to work out better. It is looking to be(e) a good year.

Here’s the girls all in a line attending some broken honeycomb.

The British Beekeepers Association has also launched a Friends of the Honey Bee campaign to raise awareness about forage, encourage planting for pollinators and to fund research into varroa. New Friends receive honey bee friendly seeds, Gardening Guide and four seasonal newsletters, to help them create bee-friendly environments benefiting pollinators of all kinds and improve biodiversity.