All posts by Glyn Davies

Beekeeping. Peter Miles. 10th December 2018

The Honey Bee Show                 Peter Miles

 

Peter has been a bee-keeper for over 45 years and is still find­ing out how bees do what they do.

 

Imagine a com­puter that can fly, can nav­ig­ate to the inch over a dis­tance of ~7 miles and also con­tains a chem­ical fact­ory inside it.  This is a worker honey bee.

 

Honey bee work­ers col­lect nectar, pollen, water and propilis (a sticky resin).

Honey bees are dif­fer­ent from bumble bees.  Honey bees make honey to feed them over the winter, but bumble bees dont — they all die except the queen.

 

There is only one queen in the honey bee hive.  She is fed by the worker bees as she cannot feed her­self.  Her role is to pro­duce eggs to stock the hive with more bees.  A queen can lay up to 2000 eggs in a day so she needs a lot of food

 

There are many male bees, called drones.  Their role is simply to mate with the queen.

This mating takes place during a flight!  Several drones will mate with the queen on this flight. The drones gen­italia are ripped off during this mating and the drones die.  How lucky are the drones, who fol­lowed the queen in this flight, but never man­aged to mate!

 

Honey bee work­ers make the hexagonal cells in the hon­ey­combs from wax that is made by the bees them­selves. The bees must con­sume 8oz. of honey to make 1oz. of wax. 

The cells are used to store honey.  Honey is made from nectar, which is con­cen­trated by remov­ing water.  It is then filled into cells which are capped by wax made by the bel­lies of the work­ers from honey and chem­ic­als from inside the bees.  The caps are stuck on using propilis. 

Some cells are used as a breed­ing area where the eggs laid by the queen become larvae, then pupae, and then new bees. 

Pollen is also stored in the cells to feed the larvae.

The work­ers col­lect nectar and pollen to make larvae bread, which is absorbed by the larvae so they grow and pupate and emerge and are then fed by the work­ers.  After 12 days they get their wings and go out col­lect­ing in their turn.  Some of the work­ers stay at the exit to the hive and fan their wings to provide vent­il­a­tion to the hive.

Some work­ers act as guards to pro­tect the hive from pred­at­ors and other dangers.

 

On these col­lec­tion flights the bees are very import­ant pol­lin­at­ors of plants.  They also col­lect water to take back to the hive to reg­u­late the humid­ity and to dilute the food for the larvae.  A worker that has found a good source of nectar and pollen goes back to the hive and per­forms a wiggle dance to inform the rest of the work­ers of the dir­ec­tion and dis­tance to this new source.  The bees com­mu­nic­ate is this way because there is no light in the hive.  The other work­ers take on enough fuel to reach the source and follow the dir­ec­tions, 40 degrees to the Sun and 1.2 miles know­ing there will be enough fuel there for the return jour­ney. 

 

A bee can pro­tect itself by using its sting.  It will usu­ally attack the eyes and the ankles.

The sting is a sharp prong with a barbed tip.  The sting base is in a mus­cu­lar poison sac but when the bee stings the barbed tip causes the sac to be pulled out and the bee dies.

 

When the hive gets full and becomes crowded the queen will lay some queen eggs.  These egg larvae are fed with royal jelly until one pupates and  is ready to emerge.

When the new queen is born it kills the other queen cells by sting­ing them.

 

The old queen then vacates the hive, taking with her about half the hive pop­u­la­tion in a swarm.  They dont go far and often can be found hanging in a mass on a tree branch with the queen in the middle sur­roun­ded by her swarm.  They never go back to the ori­ginal hive, as if they have for­got­ten the pass­word or it has been changed.

 

Bees see flowers by ultra violet light  and also follow odours given out by flowers.

Good plants for bees are willow herbs, brambles, thistles, dan­deli­ons and clovers, but most nectar is col­lec­ted from trees like hawthorn and syca­more.  Many other flower­ing plants are useful to bees and they will travel up to 4 miles to col­lect nectar.

 

Each worker bee in her life­time col­lects only enough nectar to pro­duce one tea­spoon­ful of honey, but that would fuel her to make a flight around the world.

A 12 oz. jar of honey con­tains 72 tea­spoon­ful of honey and to fill that jar would need 26,705 bee visits, an approx­im­ate flying dis­tance of 25.000 miles.

 

The female bees are given the name work­ers because they are:

Cleaners and hygien­ists, keep­ing the hive and combs as clean as oper­at­ing theatres
Heaters, using body heat to main­tain hive tem­per­at­ure
Feeders, of larvae, pupae and emer­ging new work­ers, and feed­ers of drones
Feeders and attend­ants of the queen
Wax pro­du­cers 
Comb build­ers
Nectar pro­cessors
Guards
Undertakers
Ventilators
Hydrators
Collectors of nectar, pollen water and propilis

 

The expres­sion, As busy as a bee now takes on extra mean­ing for me!

A fas­cin­at­ing talk even though I am not keen on honey.

 

An Indian Wildlife Journey                  by Malcom Walpole 22nd Oct 2018

Malcolm showed a present­a­tion with hun­dreds of pho­to­graphs of anim­als that he saw on his jour­ney.

India’s wild­life is totally dif­fer­ent from African wild­life and although India draws tour­ists to see the cul­ture, Taj Mahal etc. the wild­life is also well worth seeing.

At the first National Park on his travels he pho­to­graphed Asiatic lions.  These are dif­fer­ent from African lions, although the females do the killing and the males turn up to eat the prey.  There are only about 250 indi­vidu­als in the park.  They hunt in dark­ness and prey on Samba deer, which are also hunted by tigers.  These deer were seen feed­ing whilst stand­ing in metre-deep water, pre­sum­ably to stay safe from pred­at­ors.

He also saw Spotted deer, which are more common.  They seem to have a sym­bi­otic rela­tion­ship with Langur mon­keys, because when the deer give warn­ing of danger the mon­keys climb trees to safety then throw down foliage for the deer to eat.

There were pho­to­graphs of many birds: Red-wattled lap­wings, Plum-headed para­keets and Kingfishers (which were identical to the ones seen in England).  There were also Blue peafowl, which are common in India, but Malcolm said they seemed much quieter than the ones we might see in zoos or stately home parks here.

On the way to the second National Park Malcolm was fas­cin­ated by the vari­ety of dif­fer­ent modes of trans­port, par­tic­u­larly the bul­lock carts, which have been used in India for cen­tur­ies.

This National Park was cre­ated to pro­tect the Black-backed ante­lope.  There are no lions, tigers or leo­pards in this park.  The main pred­at­ors are a few grey wolves but the ante­lopes are much too fast for them.  There are also jungle cats, but they prey on smal­ler anim­als as they are only the size of our domestic cats.  Here again was a healthy bird pop­u­la­tion: Montague har­ri­ers, common kestrels, Black-shouldered kites and eagles.

The next stop was at a salt desert to see the Indian wild ass.  This salt desert bor­ders Pakistan.  The asses manage to eke out a living from the salt scrub.

The local people drill down to the water table and salt water rises up to the sur­face, where it is dir­ec­ted into shal­low ponds.  Here the water evap­or­ates in the sun to leave salt.  This is a thriv­ing local industry.  There are also some fresh-water lakes which are home to many bird spe­cies: Storks, Eurasian spoon­bills, pel­ic­ans, night­jars, rock pigeons and Sarus cranes.

Next he went to a for­ti­fied town (Kishen?) where a man was spread­ing sacks and sacks of grain out on the ground.  Soon there was a huge flight of hun­dreds and hun­dreds of Demsol cranes head­ing towards the town and coming in to land.  Lots of pigeons also landed and began to eat the grain but moved away when the cranes came.  The ground became covered in cranes, so closely bunched that there was no spaces between them.  As soon as all the grain was eaten all the cranes flew away.  The grain was sup­plied by local res­id­ents and the ‘hap­pen­ing’ is a famous tour­ist attrac­tion.

Malcolm trav­elled to see the Taj Mahal, then on to the Ganges river basin where he cruised along­side the banks to look at the wild­life.  There was the Galiah? cro­codile, which is the largest in the world.  It can grow to 6 metres in length and weigh over 1 ton.

It is so heavy that it cannot raise its body off the ground so it slides along on its belly when it is on land.  It feeds on fish.  Here again Malcolm saw and pho­to­graphed other cro­codiles and turtles and many, many birds.

He moved on to tiger coun­try where he went out with park staff on elephant-back to see tigers lying in the shade of the forest.  He saw a male tiger being ‘herded’ by an ele­phant and riders.  It was fol­lowed by many tour­ists in jeeps and was obvi­ously annoyed.

However, 15 minutes later it came strolling back, having dodged the ele­phant and the crowds, and Malcolm got his pho­to­graphs.

He ended his trip in Assam where he saw water buf­falo, which can weigh up to 1200kg and have the largest horns of any bovine, and the Indian one-horned rhino­ceros, which is a pro­tec­ted spe­cies.  There are now only about 1000 rhino left and they are still tar­geted by poach­ers for their horns, which are sup­posed to be an aph­ro­dis­iac.

(He also saw lots of birds!)

It was a very well organ­ised present­a­tion, with beau­ti­ful pho­to­graphy.

The fascination of the Romanovs 1894 to 1918 — Rosemary Beney — 20th August 18

Rosemary spoke about Tsar Nicholas II and Princess Alexandra of Hesse and showed us many pho­to­graphs of the family, espe­cially the chil­dren.  Although the pho­to­graphs were ori­gin­ally mono­chrome, many of them had been col­our­ised to modern stand­ards.

Tsar Nicholas was born in 1868, the son of Tsar Alexander III.                 Tsar Nicholas was known to be the richest man in the world but he was regarded as a polit­ic­ally weak man.

Princess Alexandra was the grand-daughter and favour­ite grand-child of Queen Victoria, but was not pop­u­lar in Russia.                                 Nicholas and Alexandra became engaged in 1893 and were mar­ried later in St. Petersberg.  The mar­riage was regarded as a love match and they were a pas­sion­ate couple.

Nicholas suc­ceeded his father, Alexander III, in 1894.   The coron­a­tion was immense with Royal fam­il­ies from all over the world in attend­ance.  Alexandra’s dress was so heavy with jewels and ermine that she had to have help to sit and kneel.   Outside the cathed­ral a crowd of over 50,000 had gathered to see the Royal couple.   There was a stam­pede and over 1300 people were crushed to death and many more were injured.  The couple still appeared before the crowd in the after­noon.

They had five chil­dren; at first four daugh­ters, which did not go down well with the pop­u­la­tion, and finally a son.

Olga was born May 3rd, 1895 when they vis­ited Balmoral and lived at Alexandra Place.

Tatiana was born in 1897 and later did Red Cross work in World War I.

Maria was born in 1899 and was strongly fan­cied by Lord Mountbatten.

Anastasia was born in 1901 and always had poor health.

Alexis was born in 1904.  He was found to be a hae­mo­phil­iac and was always pro­tec­ted because of it.  He was car­ried by a retainer at all public events, even when he was older, and was not allowed a bicycle or to play any sports.  He had a major bleed some years later when the family was on hol­i­day in Finland and was bathed in mud to stop the bleed­ing.

The family trav­elled in luxury in a fant­astic train with guards sta­tioned at 10 meter inter­vals along­side the tracks!  They owned a per­sonal Rolls Royce and another 66 cars.  Alexandra had dia­monds galore.

Nicholas had estab­lished an Entente Cordiale with Great Britain and, early in World War I, took over com­mand of the army.  He left the con­duct of home affairs to his wife, who became dom­in­ated by Rasputin.  At the time there was great unrest and threats of revolu­tion in Russia.

In 1917 Nicholas was forced to abdic­ate and, three days later, they were put under house arrest at Tsarskoe Selo.  They still had the ser­vants and the free­dom of the palace and grounds, so life car­ried on fairly nor­mally.

They were moved to Topol August 1917 with sev­eral of their staff.  The locals were kind and gen­er­ous but life in the Siberian sur­round­ings was not as col­our­ful.

In May 1918 they were put on ‘sol­diers rations’ and con­fined to a small area, then moved to Ekaterineberg  where they were held for 78 days in a ‘house of spe­cial pur­pose’.  Captivity became very harsh and some staff thought they were being sexu­ally abused.

They were assas­sin­ated on July 17th, 1918.

There are many stor­ies of their buri­als  etc. and the mys­ter­ies con­tinue to this day.

 

Local newspapers, community and the rise of social media. Nancy Fielder 16th July 2018

Nancy has been the Editor of the Star and the Telegraph for two years.  Although they once were run by sep­ar­ate edit­or­ial teams they are now under the same team.

The Telegraph star­ted as the Sheffield Evening Telegraph 130 years ago.  It was the first daily paper.  We saw a slide of the front page.  It was not attract­ive and was covered in close print, with head­lines not very vis­ible and no pic­tures.

The front page has been  made more attract­ive over the years and by the Queen’s coron­a­tion showed a black and white photo of her in her robes and crown.  Nowadays, of course, the photos are in colour and the head­lines are in large print so that buyers are attrac­ted, because news­pa­pers are in decline owing to com­ple­tion from tele­vi­sion and the Internet.

Nancy showed us two art­icles from the early papers that illus­trated how life has changed since then.

One was about a bus driver who was taken in front of magis­trates, called Mappin and Hadfield.  The driver was fined 10 shil­lings because his bus was 5 minutes late!

Another art­icle was about a char­lady, who was fined 2s 6d, because she had shaken out a hearth­rug on Westbar after 10 a.m!

Since Nancy became Editor the team has tried to give a pos­it­ive view of the Sheffield area to make read­ers feel good about Sheffield  and the steel industry.  Journalists know that every story can be writ­ten so the it boosts up or knocks down.  The Star and Telegraph try to put a pos­it­ive slant on local stor­ies if pos­sible.

The Star has a web site on which all stor­ies coming into the office are pub­lished, but the report­ers and edit­ors have no con­trol over the number of web hits.  A few days ago the most hits were on a story about a 10 year-old boy who was taken ill at a scout camp.  ( It was on page 7 in the paper.)  The second place on the hits list was a story about par­ents being upset about the demise of the ‘Build a Bear’ shop in Meadowhall!  There are very few hits on polit­ical stor­ies.  It seems that younger read­ers, who chose the Web over news­print, are not inter­ested.

An example of trying to boost Sheffield was an illus­trated art­icle that appeared recently in the papers about a Sheffield firm, who still make tuning forks under the head­line, “Steel City still hits the right notes”.

The ori­ginal offices and print shops of The Star and Telegraph were on High Street in the ‘Telegraph Tower’, now owned by Santander.   They moved to York Street, but the presses were moved to Dinnington sev­eral years ago.

They print 150,000 copies of the papers, but more people look online- about 350,000 each week with 163,000 fol­low­ers on Facebook.  Money is made from advert­ising online, but less than 50% of that made from advert­ising in print.

Nancy told us how the papers are pro­gress­ing.  Responses from the public to the let­ters page tend to be pos­it­ive but not so on social media.  The edit­or­ial policy is to be neut­ral but com­plaints come in about bias — in favour of the tree pro­test­ers or in favour of the coun­cil, in favour of Sheffield United or in favour of Sheffield Wednesday, in favour of the new Mayor or against him etc.   It seems very dif­fi­cult to report the news without someone feel­ing that the papers are show­ing bias.

Questions from the audi­ence were mainly about pages that are in the papers or that used to be in.

The Telegraph used to have prop­erty pages and now does not.  Nancy said that people gen­er­ally look on-line now if look­ing for prop­erty and there has been a massive impact on advert­ising rev­enue.

Another ques­tion was about the res­taur­ant  and dining-out page.   Nancy said that this was very pop­u­lar, pre­sum­ably because people  eat out nowadays much more than they did in the past.

She said that the main com­plaints (other than bias)  that the papers receive are:  if their weather fore­cast is not accur­ate or if they make a mis­take when they pub­lish the answers to the pre­vi­ous edi­tions’ cross­words!

The Star and Telegraph do not cover national news, although they did in the past.  We saw sides of the Titanic Disaster, Scott’s South Pole Expedition, the King decides to abdic­ate but the big stor­ies were local — the Flying Fortress crash in Endcliffe Park, the Battle of Orgreave, Park Hill Flats apply­ing for listed status and the World Student Games.

Nancy fin­ished by saying that The Star per­forms well for a daily paper but cannot be com­pla­cent.  Who would report local news if these papers close?  Look North does not have a journ­al­ist in Sheffield, and although Radio Sheffield has 5 journ­al­ists their news tends to be brief com­pared with the writ­ten page.

We found this a very inter­est­ing view into the local news­pa­per industry, as was demon­strated by the many ques­tion from the audi­ence.

Much Ado About Mothing — Ben Keywood — 26Th March 2018

Moths have a bad repu­ta­tion because most people think that they eat clothes.  In fact they do not.  It is the larvae of a very few moth spe­cies that eat clothes.  These larvae prob­ably fed on the lin­ings in birds’ nests before humans wore clothes made of nat­ural fibers.  Generally moths do not lay eggs on clothes made of man-made fibers or on  laundered clothes, but, if you have an item at the back of the ward­robe  that you haven’t worn for years, it might become infes­ted with moth larvae about 3mm. long.  Sometimes people think that their car­pets have been eaten by moth larvae but it was prob­ably varied carpet beetle larvae that were to blame.

There are 2,400  moth spe­cies in the U.K. but only about 60 but­ter­fly spe­cies.  There are two groups of moths: Micro and Macro.  These are not based on size but on fam­il­ies.  About 800 spe­cies are Macro, arranged in 56 fam­il­ies.  Both moths and but­ter­flies are Lepidoptera so they are closely related.  Most moths are noc­turnal (active at night) but some are diurnal (active in day­time) and some are both.

Ben explained that moths are con­sidered to be sci­en­tific­ally import­ant because:

  • They are highly sens­it­ive to very small envir­on­mental changes so they are a good indic­ator spe­cies.
  • They are pol­lin­at­ors.
  • They are at the bottom of the food chain and, as such, are a major source of food for birds and other anim­als.

The peppered moth is a good example of how changes in the envir­on­ment can affect the spe­cies.  It nor­mally has white wings peppered with tiny black spots.  In the past, when the atmo­sphere in Sheffield was full of indus­trial pol­lu­tion and build­ings and trees were covered in soot, an all-black form of the peppered moth was common.  It was thought that the black form dom­in­ated because the white form was easily picked off by birds, but  black form moths were cam­ou­flaged and sur­vived to breed more black form moths, an example of evol­u­tion.

Moths have amaz­ing cam­ou­flage.  Many moths mimic dead leaves when they close their wings.  Some look like bird drop­pings or sticks when their wings are closed. They are also good at pre­tend­ing to be dan­ger­ous to pred­at­ors.  Some moths have large ‘eyes’ on their wings which make them look dan­ger­ous.  Some have col­oured bodies that make them look like hor­nets.  One large moth flut­ters its wings rap­idly so that it looks like a hum­ming bird.  Another has a yellow head and upper body and a ‘beak’ so it looks like a canary.

People think that moths are brown and have furry bodies, but many spe­cies are beau­ti­fully bright col­oured with very com­plex pat­terns on their wings.  Many moths are just like but­ter­flies to look at.  The green carpet moth’s wings are emer­ald green with a pat­tern like a carpet.  It feeds on bil­ber­ries on the moors around Sheffield.

Some moths have cater­pil­lars that look like sticks or pieces of wood.  The ele­phant hawk moth’s cater­pil­lar is about 10 cm. long (and looks like an elephant’s trunk) but is col­oured with pat­terns and ‘eyes’ so it looks like a small snake.  The syca­more moth’s cater­pil­lar is about 5 cm. long and has bright yellow hairs stick­ing out all round.  This seems to put off pred­at­ors.  Some cater­pil­lars are tiny — the horse chest­nut leaf miner bur­rows between two sur­faces of a leaf, eating away in safety until it is large enough to pupate.  Another cater­pil­lar, only 2 mm. long, rolls up a leaf into a tube and eats away inside it.

Ben showed a photo of his moth trap (a bright light over a funneled box) which he used to catch moths in an area of well-mowed lawns near a University Hall of Residence.  He caught many moths but they were all of one type.  He said that this was because the avail­able food suited only this moth type.  He sug­ges­ted to the Hall res­id­ents that they let the grass grow and allow other plants like but­ter­cups, dais­ies and plantains to grow in the grass.  When he set up his trap some­time later he caught sev­eral dif­fer­ent types of moths.  He said that if we want a wide vari­ety of insects (he meant moths!) in our gar­dens then we need a wide vari­ety of plants and not to spray chem­ic­als at all.

At the end Ben was asked what is the dif­fer­ence between moths and but­ter­flies.  He admit­ted that, in fact, there is no real dif­fer­ence.           This was a fas­cin­at­ing talk with so much new inform­a­tion that I’ve only scraped the sur­face.

Railways in the Cornish Landscape — part 2. — Stephen Gay — 12/02/2018

After telling us how he found a grave­stone with his name on it in St. Keys grave­yard, Stephen began his story of the Redruth and Chasewater Railway begin­ning near Truro.

His talk was accom­pan­ied by won­der­ful pho­to­graphs that he has taken on his travels.

He showed us Devoran Village Hall, which was once an engine shed.  The road along­side the hall was where the rail­way ran ori­gin­ally. A branch line, which car­ried min­er­als, once ran from the main line down to the River Fal where the min­eral boats were moored.

We were taken on a cruise down the river to Falmouth, which was the deep­est nat­ural port in England.  Stephen stayed in Falmouth at the Green Bank Hotel.  He found that Florence Nightingale and, later, Kenneth Graham, of ‘Wind in the Willows’ fame, stayed at the hotel.

He vis­ited Pendennis shipyard, where naval ves­sels were main­tained, because he knew that steam trains were still used there until 1986. The main line con­tin­ues across a via­duct where the stone pil­lars of Brunel’s ori­ginal timber via­duct can be seen along­side.  The ori­ginal via­duct was replaced in 1933.  Brunel’s lines were seven and a quarter foot gauge, much wider than modern track.

His next sta­tion was at Perranwell, a request stop, where Stephen and Wrawby, his Germen Shepherd dog, went for a walk.  They dis­covered an ancient fin­ger­post, which dir­ec­ted them to King Harry’s Ferry, which was a chain-link ferry across the river.

The line con­tin­ues through Penryn and is single track.  It is very busy with tour­ists and stu­dents, but at Penryn sta­tion there is a side loop where trains trav­el­ling up and down the line can pass each other.  The plat­form is extra long to accom­mod­ate trains in both dir­ec­tions. The next via­duct was the last of Brunel’s timber via­ducts to be replaced.

On to Falmouth Dock sta­tion, which could become very much busier.  There are rumours that cruise liners from crowded Southampton port are to be diver­ted to Falmouth.

Then to Chasewater sta­tion which closed in 1963 when Beeching closed the branch line to Perranporth.

Stephen diver­ted to Perranporth sta­tion where there was a Millenium Project to make a Railway Walk along the dis­used line. He went by bus down to the beach where an artist called Kenneth Steel was once employed by British Railways to paint coastal views for BR posters.  Stephen told us that there is a Steel poster on Dronfield sta­tion and a paint­ing by Steel on the first floor of Atkinsons store near the toi­lets.

Redruth Station is approached by a short tunnel and in the sta­tion café is a plaque that says “Jenny Agutter stayed here.”

Camborne, next on the line, is the birth­place of Richard Trevithick, a rail­way pion­eer.  There is a statue of him in the town.  (Stephen read his poem about Trevithic.) He dis­covered another old finger post that still dir­ec­ted him to a sta­tion that closed in 1963!

Stephen stood on the dis­used (dan­ger­ous) Helston via­duct to take a pho­to­graph, then on to Helston sta­tion, which is the south­ern­most sta­tion in England.  GWR ran out of money so they opened a bus link to the Lizard where they built a narrow gauge (funicu­lar) rail­way down to the life­boat sta­tion.

Further on he passed Lelant Saltings sta­tion, which was one of the first ‘Park and Ride’ sta­tions.  When it opened in 1978 the cost for park­ing a car and a return to St. Ives for 4 people was 60p.

The line runs along the coast towards St. Ives where the sta­tion is next to the beach at the end of the line.  Stephen took a pho­to­graph of St. Ives sta­tion from the inside of a tele­phone box after he had cleaned evid­ence of the pres­ence of many seagulls from the win­dows. (He read his poem about how mobile phones are threat­en­ing the phone boxes.)

The whole ‘trip’ was an enorm­ous pleas­ure, through the present and past of Cornwall, illus­trated by splen­did pho­to­graphs and Stephen’s poems.