June 29, 2010

25th June 2010

Wendy and I thought you might like to know that the Tocil Bee Habitat Project is now officially part of the International Year of Biodiversity 2010.

Wendy and I wrote informing them of the project and asking how to get involved with the IYB and they said that our project was brilliant and that we were in. They have asked for photos and are putting a piece on their website later this week – the piece includes all work relating to the honey bee.

So, go and have a look on www.biodiversityislife.net

(But leave it until next week)

Ann Loscombe


June 21, 2010

18th June, 2010

I forgot to mention last week that there is now a page on the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust website that is devoted to our Bee Habitat Project. Below is the link.

http://www.warwickshire-wildlife-trust.org.uk/community--youth/partnership-projects/bee-habitat-meadow-project.aspx

Peter Thorne from the Wildlife Trust has been an enormous help to us, with advice, equipment and enthusiasm. Our working parties wouldn’t have happened without his support so it is great to see that the Trust is also promoting the meadow.

Talking of the meadow, it is currently a field of thistles. Wendy and I noticed that the whole area is covered in them. They are good for bees (which is great), but once they flower and spread their seed there will be even more next year. So, hard work will be needed to remove them. The wildflower seed we planted is trying hard to push up underneath but will have to work hard.

Despite that, we did notice some beautiful wild orchids in the meadow. The good thing is that as the seeds were so late into the ground, there is a good chance they may still be flowering when term starts in the autumn. It would be great if those that put in the work to plant the meadow could actually see them flowering.

But, despite all that, we did plant seeds for this year and next, so if we get to grips with the nettles, next year should flower on time and well.

Ann Loscombe


June 14, 2010

Friday 11th June, 2010

What amazing coverage we had from our press launch.

There was a fantastic two page spread in the Warwickshire Telegraph with fabulous quotes from Dr David Chandler saying how important Environmental Art is to help science get its message across to a wider audience. There were articles also in the Leamington Courier, and the Coventry Observer and when I opened the Leamington Observer yesterday were was another article with pictures of myself, Wendy and Pranay Subedi who will lead the project next term.

We are currently waiting to hear back from the Woodland Trust about where we can place the sculpture, and once that is sorted we can dig the hole what will hold the sculpture in place.

If you want to look at the latest press article go to www.leamingtonobserver.co.uk and the article is headed ‘Making a beeline for the university’.

Ann Loscombe


May 25, 2010

FRIDAY 21ST MAY

What a day we had at the meadow on Wednesday!

Fortunately it was beautifully warm and sunny so everything looked its best. I did notice that the seeds have taken and although very small, with a good dose of rain should really start to take off quite soon. This is a huge relief as sowing those seeds felt like quite a responsibility. The ground though is dry and cracked, so we do need some rain. There is also a huge quantity of nettles, which at some point we need to attack with a working party.

But for now back to the excitement of Wednesday.

It started with Fran from the Annie Othen show on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire radio arriving to make a live broadcast from the meadow. She had amazingly little equipment with her and basically just stood in the meadow with a microphone pointed at us wearing headphones with a little box which connected to the radio studio like a mobile phone. I was all prepared to answer questions but as soon as the mike was pointed at me went completely blank. I don’t think I came across as a complete idiot but it was not my finest hour. She spoke not only to me and Wendy, but also Mick Smith and Roger Wilkes who had installed the bees.

Fran was under the impression she would see the arrival of the bees, but Mick explained that they have to be moved at night to ensure they are all back in the hive so none were lost and then they need a little time to calm down and get used to their surroundings.

It is a good job they were happily installed and calm because it was mad in the afternoon. There were reporters and photographers from the University press department, Coventry Evening Telegraph and Coventry Observer as well as the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust press department. The Leamington Courier apologised for not sending a photographer but will run an article with the photos we sent them of the hives on site.

It looked like a crime scene from Midsummer Murders when everyone was dressed up in their bee suits, kindly provided by the Warwick and Leamington Branch of the Warwickshire Bee Keepers Association. Mick and Roger were brilliant in that they divided us into two groups and opened the hives. They showed us how the top part of the hive, the ‘super’ was where the honey was made and the bottom area was where the Queen bee laid her eggs and the workers looked after the larvae and pupae.

We saw the Queen bee, drones and workers as well as eggs in cells. We saw workers doing their ‘waggle dance’ telling the other bees where to find good pollen and nectar. And we saw honey in cells. It was fantastic.

I think Pranay Subedi and Stefan Armour were also excited as Pranay has now agreed to be the project leader next year and Stefan wants to be involved in the educational part of the project.

There should be an article in today’s Leamington paper and the other articles should be out sometime next week so let me know if you see anything in the Coventry papers.

Hope you like the photos.

bbc radio

bee meadow

Ann Loscombe


Friday May 21st

Friday May 21st

Hi again

Peter Thorne from the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has just told me that there is now a page on their website about our project. If you want to have a look follow the link below.

http://www.wkwt.org.uk/community--youth/partnership-projects/bee-habitat-meadow-project.aspx


May 14, 2010

The Bee Meadow Sculpture

The Bee Meadow Sculpture

‘The Bee Catcher’

Wendy and I thought long and hard before we came up with the idea for our sculpture. We wanted something that represented the honey bee, but didn’t want to be to obvious and just do a bee. We wanted something that represented the science behind the project and thought about a microscope – graphically shaped with the history of bees etched onto a Perspex sheet representing the microscope slide – but it too seemed to obvious and not very attractive and we wanted our art to be beautiful.

We then came up with the idea of a flower. Initially, that too could have been quite weak as an idea and would represent the meadow but not necessarily the honey bee. But that idea grew! The problems the honey bee has with its loss of habitat due to increasing industrialisation and urbanisation of our landscape would make a flower made from metal and aluminium very symbolic. So then the issue was what flower? And then it became obvious.

We chose the FOXGLOVE to represent our Environmental Art project for two main reasons. The first and most obvious reason being that the ‘Foxglove’ is known colloquially as the ‘Bee Catcher’.  As a plant it is steeped in folklore that involves witches and fairies, so it is quite a magical plant. Secondly, foxgloves, which have been native to our country since the fifteenth century are now fast disappearing from the English countryside. They used to be found in open woods, scrub land and woodland clearings on banks and road verges, but they are getting harder and harder to find, just like the honey bee which has inspired this whole project.

Then the magical bit: The flowers are purple or white and often dappled, and some say that the dappling occurs when elves and fairies touch the plant! More importantly the markings are clearly visible in UV light, which is important as UV light is clearly visible to bees. When a bee lands on a flower it can crawl right up inside the flower hence the name ‘Bee Catcher’ and because the bee can get right inside the flower its whole body gets covered in pollen which helps cross pollination as the bee flies from flower to flower.

Foxgloves have featured in gardens for centuries, they flower in summer and the stalks can grow up to 4-6ft high. With its distinctive shape and size it therefore translates quite beautifully to an enlarged sculpture.

Foxgloves also have a Warwickshire connection. Although most know that it is poisonous if eaten, and should be kept away from small children, foxgloves have historically been used in herbal medicine and are still used today in drugs used to strengthen the heart and regulate heartbeat. In fact it was Dr William Withering from Warwickshire who, in 1785, discovered that ‘digitalin’ strengthened the heart.

The more scientific name of ‘Digitalis’ translates as "measuring a finger's breadth," which seems appropriate as the foxglove flowers are perfect for poking your finger into! But an old myth says that the name comes from old English ‘foxes glofa’ meaning ‘foxes gloves’. It is said that fairies would give foxes the flowers to wear on their paws which would magically protect them as they made their nightly raids on hen houses. It is also said that witches would make an ointment from foxgloves which they rubbed on their thighs to make them fly!

Most importantly folklore tells that you must never harm the plant or the fairy folk will have their revenge on you!


12th May 2010

12th May 2010

Great excitement! You may have noticed that two hives have arrived on site and quite beautiful they look. Well, not only do we have hives, but we also have bees.

Roger and Mick took the bees up there a couple of days ago and will monitor them while they settle in. As I am sure you know, if you don’t bother a bee, it won’t bother you. But, to be on the safe side, below is a quick guide on how to avoid getting stung.

Tips to Avoid Stinging Insects

There are several precautions that can help an individual to avoid getting stung by an insect:

Clothing

  • It is best to avoid bright or flowery clothing that will attract some insects.
  • Feet should be covered with protective footwear.
  • Loose clothing should be avoided because insects can become trapped in it.
  • Perfumes or scents should be avoided. They can attract insects.

Picnics

  • Insects can crawl inside open beverage cans. It’s better to avoid using them.
  • Food containers should be kept covered.
  • Insects are attracted to food and garbage, so it is wise to avoid garbage bins.

Other

  • The interior of a vehicle should be checked before entering, and the windows kept closed.
  • It is not a good idea to kick at logs or bushes. They may contain nests.
  • Waving arms, yelling, and running can cause insects to become aggressive and sting. It is better to move away slowly and calmly.
  • Squashing an insect may give off an odour that will cause the other insects to become aggressive. It is better to brush it away gently.
  • A bee can only sting once. It leaves the stinger in the victim, then dies. The stinger should be scraped away. If squeezed, it will send more venom into the wound.
  • It is very important to avoid a hive. Bees protect their hives from intruders and will attack if you get too close.
  • If you see a swarm, stay away as only a professional should deal with it.

While it is difficult to guarantee what a stinging insect will do, following these precautions will increase the odds that an allergic individual can avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Note: There is no substitute for medical attention when dealing with an insect sting.

hives


April 29, 2010

29th April

Well, we had some rain last Sunday, which will hopefully have bedded the seeds in, but with all this beautiful weather, Wendy and I must be the only people praying for a bit of rain. Just over night would be perfect.

I don’t think I mentioned that Coventry City Council awarded Wendy and me a grant to create some artwork on the Meadow site. We are planning on a metal sculpture – haven’t finalised the design yet – and spent this morning talking to Jody and Kevin who are going to fabricate our design. We should have the final design to them by the end of next week.

What they did say was that to secure the type of structure we are thinking about, would require the digging of a hole, 1m wide, 1m long and 1m deep. I said last week that all the hard labour was over, but anybody interested in digging holes would be very welcome when the time comes. The hole will need to be filled with concrete which will form a base on which to secure the sculpture.

I will let you know more when things are clearer but the sculpture needs to be on site by the beginning of July so we need to get a move on.

Let me know if you happen to be walking by the meadow and notice if anything is starting to grow!!!


April 23, 2010

22nd April

A big thank you to everyone who came up to the meadow yesterday to help sow the 10kgs of wildflower seeds.

It was a beautiful day and perfect dry sunny conditions with only a little breeze. Unfortunately we haven’t had any rain for a while which means the top soil is very dry, but there is still quite a lot of moisture just below the surface. Hopefully, if it rains within a week or so the seeds will start to germinate.

bee meadow

We used two mixes, one which is designed to create flowers this year and the other which will produce flowers next year. The meadow is likely to start off a bit patchy this year, but with time, should be beautiful and even out after a couple of years growth and care.

Now that the seeds are in, we are going to try and get the bees on site. Wendy is contacting the Beekeepers and as soon as we have a date for their arrival we will let you know. It would be nice to have a big welcome party!

There won’t now be any more hard labour on the meadow until the autumn when the meadow will be mown and we will need to rake the hay.

As the next stage of the Bee Habitat Project, we are writing a brochure to use with schools and other groups to inform them of the importance of the honey bee and pollinators in general. We have prepared the main body of the text but have yet to illustrate and finalise the design for the brochure – which we plan to be eight sided A5.

If you would like to get involved with making the brochure please get in touch as hopefully it will be you guys showing members of the community around the meadow and teaching them about what they can do to help the bees.

Thanks again for all your hard work yesterday.


April 14, 2010

14th April

Well, we went to the meadow this afternoon and believe it or not it was too DRY to sow the seeds!

I know, after all the snow and mud now it is too dry. It was also rather windy, but with big gusts of wind, which meant that if we sowed the seed it would just sit on top of the dry soil and the wind would have blown it all away.

So, we are going to hope for rain in the early part of next week and try again next Wednesday. We will also take some water canisters and sprays and try and wet the soil next week, if it is still dry and we don’t have any rain. But, after sowing, we will need to keep the soil moist for up to six weeks for the seeds to germinate. So, ideal weather would be warm and dry during the day with April showers.

Well, hope to see you next week.


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