Porch Honey a small innovative bee farm built from a hobby hive on the porch of our House. Around summer 7 years ago we moved from the porch of our door into the welcome arms of Nick Stanley head ranger at Langdon Hills Country Park and Steve Benet head warden at Watt Tyler Park.
As soon as we agreed to place hives in the park Nick invited us to start an apiary site in a field of scientific interest which was in bloom at the time giving us an array of flowers to learn about and show the potential of having one of our first apiary sites in that field. Steve Benet also allowed us to start one of our first apiary sites in a unique site of interest; a reclaimed land fill that has turned from an unused hidden away piece of land into a hidden wonder! 7 years on from starting in both parks and our main objectives are the same as they always have been. Revolving around the term we use for ourselves; holistic bee farmers.
Holistic bee farmers prioritise working with the land around them; by increasing and reducing the number of hives in their apiaries depending on the effects on the pollinators and wild life around them, for instance too many hives in an area will need a higher quantity of pollen and nectar than the land can produce, this basically leads to over foraging which I will explain further on. We counteract this by what I said at the beginning of this paragraph where we change the quantity of hives in an area depending on how much nectar and pollen is available for the bees and local pollinators.
Unlike many bee famers who strip the land of forage then consistently move on to fresher forage. This produces periods of over foraging for the bees as they move, which as a reaction for the periods of time that the swathes of hives are placed there produces dead zones. Where there isn’t enough forage for all pollinators that live off the same plants that the bees forage from, which causes starvation among these insects and a reduction in pollination for the rest of the season as the population of pollinators drops significantly.
A core part of observing the pollinators in an apiary site involves using our phones and cameras to identify these pollinators and observe them in a way that allows us to understand what they use, and which pollinators live off the same forage as the bees we own. This helps us learn these pollinators routine; what time of the day/temperatures do they forage in, what times of the year are they around and more.
We keep the photos on a data drive allowing us to compare photos from year to year month to month. This lets us notice more easily if there are new insects we haven’t seen before and new routines the pollinators are going through we hadn’t noticed before.
The usage of technology in observing our hives especially in winter makes caring for the hives instead of unintentionally making things worse far easier, for example; we use an infrared camera to see where the bees are in a hive instead of opening the hive and letting the cold in. This allows us to see if the bees are clustering to keep warm or spreading throughout the frames.
We the bee farmers constantly check up on our hives using our infrared camera to observe the hives and compare how they looked to the weeks before, we also use the classical technique of lifting a hive to keep an eye on the weight of the hive which will help us know if the stores in the hive are getting low. Comparing weight to the size of the colony in the infrared photos helps us see if the reduction in weight is because of the quantity of bees dying or from the stores being used or both.