All entries for May 2010
May 25, 2010
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.
Friday May 21st
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.
May 14, 2010
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.