See inside a beehive - the Southill Solar bees

In this extraordinary video, Southill Solar's beekeeper, Tom Worsley, takes us on a tour of the thermosolar beehive he installed on the site. (The thermosolar beehive is the first of its kind in the UK. It uses solar power to kill the parasitic Varroa mite.)

Up close and personal with the bees

Tom has filmed one of his regular visits to check the hive. He talks us through what he's doing as he methodically checks the health and behaviour of the bees, and shows how the hive is settling and starting to produce honey. It's an enthralling look inside a working colony of bees, and an insight into the beekeeper's world.

Here are just a couple of bee facts I learned:

  • bees need water too - up to half the bees you see on the wing could be carrying water
  • smoke (which Tom uses in the gentlest way) calms the bees because they assume that a fire is endangering the hive and immediately go to fill their bee bellies with honey, to take with them when they evacuate
  • a sweet-smelling hive generally indicates a happy, healthy colony of bees

Southill's bees are thriving

Our bees are doing well - especially as they were a new, young colony. And Tom doesn't get stung once!

The bees in the news

Our bees are generating a bit of a buzz. That's mainly due to the exciting innovation of the thermosolar beehive. This is a step-change in the way that beekeepers can treat their bees against the Varroa mite – without using chemicals, pesticides or harming the bees.

Check out what BBC South had to say about our bees.

Bees come to Southill Solar

Southill Solar installs the UK’s first thermosolar beehive – which uses sunlight to protect bees against the Varroa mite.

On Sat 3 June, Southill Solar is proud to welcome our new resident colony of bees. The bees are an important part of our biodiversity plans. We’re using wildflower meadows and seed-rich planting to make the Southill Solar site a haven for all manner of birds, insects and mammals.

What’s more, Southill Solar’s bees will live in a thermosolar beehive – the first one to be installed in the UK.

The buzz about the thermosolar hive

The thermosolar hive uses solar power to kill parasitic Varroa mites.

It works by raising the temperature of the hive’s brood nest to 47 degrees C. At this temperature, the mites are killed off but the bees remain unharmed.

This is a step-change in the way that beekeepers can treat their bees against the Varroa mite – without using chemicals, pesticides or harming the bees.

Bees need all the help they can get

Tom Worlsey, Southill Solar’s new beekeeper, says, ““Right now, more than ever, bees need our help to survive. What is good for the bees, is good for all of us”.

Our bee populations are under constant attack from parasites, disease, and agricultural pesticides. The Varroa mite is an endemic parasite present in all bee colonies. Varroa transmit many of the diseases that affect the health of our bees.

Until now, beekeepers have used a variety of pesticides or chemical treatments to try and kill off the parasites. However none of these treatments are 100% effective, and none are particularly kind to the bees. The treatments often kill off many of the bees, as well as the mites. Varroa mites have developed resistance to many of the treatments, and the chemicals used can also contaminate the honey if not applied correctly.

The thermosolar hive has the potential to do great good.

What’s next for Southill Solar’s bees?

Tom thinks the hive will produce about 15-20 kg of honey in its first season, and maybe double that in future years.

So watch this space for some wonderful, community-owned, solar-powered, ethical AND pioneering honey to spread on your toast.

Come and meet Tom!  He will be at Charlbury’s Riverside Festival (29 and 30 July) to talk about Southill Solar’s hives, and bees in general. Come down and say hello to Tom and the Southill Solar team there.

 

Southill Solar site open day

Southill Community Energy directors Tim Crisp, Als Parker and Chris Barras are delighted to invite SCE members to join them on the Parish Boundary Walk to the Southill Solar site.

Showing off Southill Solar

This will be an exciting opportunity to visit the solar farm and learn more about recent developments and the workings of the solar site. You will:

  • hear about the the biodiversity and landscape management plans for the site and see the young apple orchard trees recently planted
  • view the UK's first Thermosolar hive, helping eradicate the Varroa mite, currently being installed
  • learn about the performance of the solar panel arrays so far and see how renewable energy generation works in action...

Mind where you put your feet!

The site is being established as a conservation area for ground nesting birds such as skylarks so we will need to take care not to disturb habitats.

Timings, where to meet us and what the walk's like

The Parish Boundary walk is on Sunday 21st May. Come along and meet us on Cornbury Bridge at 10 am. You are welcome to bring a picnic and stay on site until 2.00pm.

The walk from Cornbury Bridge to the site takes approximately an hour.

The Parish Boundary Walk is not an established footpath and unfortunately not suitable for buggies. Please wear sturdy footwear!

The Southill Solar team looks forward to welcoming you on the walk and then on site.

Southill solar is generating green power!

With great excitement Southill Solar was switched on this Friday 11th November, generating the first kilowatts of carbon free renewable energy.

The first metered kW of generated clean green community energy.

The first metered kW of generated clean green community energy.

 

  • The Southill Solar installation, built by Solarcentury, has a capacity of 4.5MW, enough electricity to supply 1,100 homes with electricity for the next 25 years
  • As well as generating energy, Southill will deliver over £750,000 of community benefits through a system of grants in order to help fund low carbon initiatives 
  • Environmental and biodiversity benefits will be a feature of the SouthillSolar site - further planting starts in December to give new habitats for wildlife and wildflower meadows

It's all down to you!

Everyone who invested time, energy and money as members of Southill Community Energy - this is your achievement, and we thank you. We're one small step closer to winning the war on climate change.

Join us to celebrate this moment

Join us to mark the commissioning of the Southill Solar farm with Jeremy Leggett, founder of Solarcentury and author of 'Winning the Carbon War'.

Jeremy will give his talk on energy and climate change and discussing what is being done post the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Jeremy commented:

Now, more than ever, the world needs the spirit, leadership example, and actual emissions reductions that community energy projects like this embody. The US, and to an extent the UK, are stepping towards fossil fuels and away from clean energy, just as the majority of other national governments, many local governments, and thousands of communities the world over are going the other way. I thank everyone involved, and hope Charlbury will enjoy its candle for hope as much as I will."

We look forward to seeing you on the 17th November - here are the details.