Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Oil Seed Rape

Wednesday 16th May 2012

Oil Seed Rape
I don't remember this crop from my childhood, so I guess that it has slowly and steadily worked its way up to being part of the English countryside. It certainly adds a splash of colour, but at the same time somehow symbolises to me the large monocultural fields supported by current agricultural policies.
I don't really know what the stuff is used for, but I do know it is part of the cabbage family. It's sometimes a bit wiffy, but nothing terrible, and I'd rather they farmed this next to my house than cabbages.

As a beekeeper, I look upon OSR with mixed feelings. It provides a great early season source of food, but the honey it produces crystallises solid, even when still in the hive. It probably won't be long before I go on a steep learning curve about extracting OSR honey from the honey frames.

As a birder, I must admit I have been slightly surprised by my neighbouring field of sunshine. I had heard that Sedge Warblers had adapted to breed in it. More than that though, the area of field in the photo above holds singing Reed Warbler as well as Sedge Warbler. Yellow Wagtails have been seen flying in and out of the crop, as does a Blackbird regularly. A Dunnock sat atop the rape singing its head off yesterday and the Whitethroat spends quite a bit of time in the crop too.
Of these, I am most surprised by the Reed Warbler. It mostly sings from near the edge of the rape field, but it is most definitely in the crop and not in the nearby dyke. Its progress is best tracked by watching the individual stems of rape twitching as it hops and flits, otherwise unseen, just under the surface of the yellow sea. A better name might be Rape Wobbler!

Swarm Cells!
This evening was a still one, perfect for a decent inspection of the bees. We also planned to make the brood chamber bigger by adding a box of super frames above the brood frames. The idea is for the bees to feel less overcrowded and so decide not to split into two colonies.
The inspection went very well, except that we found 14 queen cells. These are coccoon like cups which the bees build out so that they can turn the larvae into queens. They are a good sign that swarming is fairly imminent. This can be a good thing, if controlled, since we could end up with two hives of bees, but it could be a bad thing leaving us with half a hive of bees!
There also seemed to be a large number of drones, male bees which are easy to tell by their larger size. This can be another sign that swarming is firmly part of Plan Bee.

We will seek the advice of a more experienced beekeeper. Meantime, we hope the bees don't do anything rash!

Found this rather wonderful plant growing by the pond this evening. Some sort of Spurge I think.

Also glimpsed the Short-eared Owl again late afternoon, over by The Main Drain. Guess htis one may well hang around all summer now.


  1. Oilseed Rape is what most Vegetable oil is made from.

    1. Thank you for that. Explains its increase in the countryside. When I was young we used lard for cooking!


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