A tale of two (beekeeping) cities

I learned a new word when I was in Münster, York’s German twin town, a couple of weeks ago. That word was: Imker. It means ‘beekeeper’.  And beekeeping doesn’t get much more local than at my friend Margret’s house. Look carefully and you’ll see the beehives (Bienenstöcke) are on the roof of her house!

Spot the (German) bee hives!

Spot the (German) bee hives!

The day I went round to visit, the Imker – her brother-in-law Gerd – and his son Lukas were harvesting the honey from the hives. It was a fascinating process to watch (not least because the last time I’d seen Lukas, he was not much more than a toddler!)

One of the hives at ground level

One of the hives down at ground level, opened up ready for harvesting

So here is Lukas (all grown up now) decapping a frame of honeycomb – i.e. taking off the wax cappings. They’ll make candles out of this beeswax.

Lukas decapping a honeycomb frame

Lukas decapping a honeycomb frame

Then the frames go into Imker Gerd’s centrifuge, and the honey comes dripping out of the bottom, into the yellow bucket you can see below.

Gert with his centrifuge.

Imker Gerd with his centrifuge.

They harvest the honey like this twice a year, once in May and then again in August, when we were there.

Lukas decapping a honeycomb frame

Father and son at work harvesting the honey

This is the first time I’ve seen the honey harvesting process (and immediately tasted the delicious results!) The nearest I’d been to honey production before was when I visited John and Katy’s hives here in York, to take the penultimate photo for my Buzzing! book.

My husband and I were lucky enough to be given a jar of their May ‘echter deutscher Blütenhonig’ (genuine German blossom honey) to bring back home. ‘Spitzenqualität vom Imker’ it says on the label. And now I know what that means – both linguistically and taste-wise!

The Münster honey makes it back to twin town York

The Münster honey makes it back to twin town York

Actually, as I’ve been writing this I’ve discovered there are several English words to do with beekeeping that I didn’t know and had to look up. ‘Decapping’ being one of them. And it may well be that I’ve got some of my beekeeping phraseology wrong here too – in which case, feel free to set me straight!

I’m on much surer ground when it comes to performing my Honeybee poem (from p. 24 of my Buzzing! book). Maybe I ought to think about performing that in German in future … .

Meanwhile: Guten Appetit!

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life

Sounds interesting …

The day after the momentous Brexit result in our EU referendum, we had the pleasure of welcoming a very special migrant to our garden here on the outskirts of York. Take a listen to this:

Isn’t it beautiful? It’s the first time I’ve ever, in the 20 years we’ve lived here, heard this bird singing in our garden. And it provided very welcome balm for the soul.

In case you’re wondering, what you’ve just listened to is a male Blackcap.

As anyone who has been to one of my Flying High! shows will know, I am a big fan of birdsong. And I’m very keen, through my Flying High! shows and my forthcoming Flying High! book, to tune other people in to the joys (and occasional annoyances!) of the birdsong around them.

However, birdsong isn’t the only fabulous sound you might hear in your garden. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear all sorts of other interesting sounds.

For example, ten days after I heard the Blackcap singing, I was just about to go to bed when I heard a familiar sound through the bathroom window. We hear it every year at about this time. Have a listen. Do you know what it is?

The first time I heard it, I had no idea what it was. The answer is: two hedgehogs getting to know each other. They snuffle around each other like this for ages and ages. We feel very lucky that year after year, hedgehogs come to our garden for this special event in their lives.

Courting hedgehogs in our garden, 4 July 2016

Courting hedgehogs in our garden in Heslington, 4 July 2016

And here’s another intriguing sound. I heard it in the garden over the course of a few days last week. It was coming from our wooden trellis. Any idea what it is? (N.B. You need to listen very carefully!)

For the answer to this one, I’ll point you in the direction of my award-winning Buzzing! book. All is revealed on pages 20 and 21!

Meanwhile, may your life be enriched by tuning in to the sounds of nature all around you.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what the effect of leaving the EU may be on our wildlife here in Britain, have a read of this interesting document, The EU and Our Environment, drawn up in advance of the referendum by the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and WWF.

Anneliese Emmans Dean theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life


Bowled over by Bolton-on-Swale

It was my second visit to Bolton-on-Swale Primary School. I spent half a day there last year celebrating World Book Day, as a result of which Mrs Dobson, the Head Teacher, invited me back for a full day this year.

And what a day it turned out to be!

I kick-started the day with an interactive poetry show for the whole school in which I performed poems from both my award-winning Buzzing! book and my forthcoming Flying High! book too.

Then Mrs Jones’ Class 4 (Years 5 & 6) knocked my socks off with the fabulous minibeast poems they wrote in our Minibeast Magic workshop. Each and every one of the pupils imagined really well what it was like to be a particular minibeast, and they used lots of magic tricks I showed them to make their poems sparkle.

Mr Ramsbottom’s Class 3 (Years 3 & 4) and I went on a wildlife walk. After which the pupils tickled me pink with the rhyming couplet poem they came up with, all about the things we’d seen. My favourite couplet was:

‘Rooks retreating to their nest
Trying to avoid the Class 3 test’

Rooks' nest at Bolton-on-Swale Primary School

Rooks’ nest at Bolton-on-Swale Primary School

The rest of the school giggled at that too, when Class 3 performed their poem in the sharing assembly at the end of the day. In which Reception warmed everyone up with their Warm-Up Rhyme from our Rhyme Time Ramble, and KS1 performed the brand new minibeast poem that they’d created outdoors in our Millipedes Galore workshop.

What a great day’s poetry from fabulous children. And what lucky children they are, too, to have such lovely school grounds to enjoy – including their very own Reflection Garden. There we spotted bumblebees, hoverflies, spiders and even the cuckoo spit of froghopper nymphs.

The Reflection Garden at Bolton-on-Swale Primary School - complete with storyteller's chair

The Reflection Garden at Bolton-on-Swale Primary School – complete with storyteller’s chair

Thank you to all the teachers and teaching assistants who pitched in so enthusiastically with my workshops. Here’s some of their feedback:

‘This session (in which the children were writing minibeast poems) was brilliantly modelled with enthusiasm and fantastic creativity/subject knowledge. As a result the children were excited, inspired and consequently wrote poems of a very high standard.’
Mrs Jones, Year 5/6 teacher

‘A very inspiring morning! All children were engaged and took an active role when learning the rhymes.’
Victoria Moodie, Reception teacher

If you’d like a poetry visit to your school, then just get in contact!

Anneliese Emmans DeantheBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life


Berberis sawflies 2016

They’re back again! For the 11th year in a row we have Berberis sawfly larvae on our Berberis bush here on the outskirts of York- as you can see below:

Berberis sawfly larva on our Berberis bush, 8 July 2016

Berberis sawfly larva on our Berberis bush, 8 July 2016

I first saw the adult sawflies here this year on 12 June:

First adult Berberis Sawfly of 2016, spotted on 12 June

First adult Berberis Sawfly of 2016, spotted on 12 June

Despite minor depredations by the larvae, the Berberis bush is still stonkingly healthy.

Our Berberis bush

Our Berberis bush

This year its beautiful orange blossom attracted the daily attentions of a Hornet – the first time I have seen this happen.

Hornet feeding on our Berberis bush, May 2016

Hornet feeding on our Berberis bush, May 2016

You may recall that when I first spotted Berberis sawfly larvae here, it caused a minor sensation – in the sawfly world, that is. To read the full Berberis sawfly larva story, click here  and here. It’s a long story, and includes the Natural History Museum in London and a World First for me here in Heslington. You might want to brew a cuppa before you embark on the saga …

Meanwhile, if you’ve got Berberis sawflies – or any other sort of sawflies – where you are, there’s a British Sawfly recording scheme that would like to hear from you. Email your sighting (including date and location) to britishsawflies@liverpoolmuseums.org.uk.

Anneliese Emmans DeantheBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life

New mini-beast magazine for mini-people

OK, so you’ve just missed National Insect Week this year, but fear not! You’ve still got loads of time to take a peek at Instar, a great new – free – online insect magazine for kids aged 7 upwards. (You can click on the image below to read it.)

I especially recommend your perusing pages 18 to 21, where not only will you be able to read a couple of my insect poems (from my award-winning minibeast poetry book Buzzing!) but you’ll also find my tips to help you write your own poems inspired by insects.

Instar magazine is brought to you by the Royal Entomological Society – who know a thing or two about insects! – and contains loads of fascinating articles.


Oh, and feel free to send me any insect poems you write. I’d love to see what you think it feels like to be a particular insect …

Anneliese Emmans Deanwww.theBigBuzz.biz – Bringing poetry to life

AGM – with attitude!

Let’s face it, an AGM can be a little … lacking in pizzazz. However worthy the organisation. And Edible York, the organisation holding its AGM last night, is a *very* worthy organisation. It’s a ‘lively local charity that aims to support people to become closer to the food they eat’. Take a look at what they get up to here.

To counter the ‘lack-of-pizzazz’-ness of the evening, Edible York invited me to come and perform for them, after the formalities of the agenda were over. So I did just that. A set of poems all about what they get up to, which is growing fruit and veg.

Entertaining at the Edible York AGM

Entertaining at the Edible York AGM

How did it go down? Here’s what one  attendee tweeted afterwards:

‘Spectacular performance poetry this eve from the ever effervescent Anneliese’

Edu-taining at the Edible York AGM

Where would we be without bumblebees? Edu-taining at the Edible York AGM

And another comment:

‘I loved the way you tied everything together with merry words and buzzing characterisations. It made our AGM such a happy, memorable event!!’

Adding to the festive atmosphere was Tim Pheby playing and singing some beautiful songs (and updating us on the England v Slovakia game).

An excellent way to spend a June evening.

If you dig digging, then Edible York are always looking for new volunteers! They’ve recently produced an excellent ‘Guide to Community Growing‘ which you might find inspires you further. You can download a copy here.

And finally … if you’d me to come and pep up your AGM, then get in touch!

Anneliese Emmans DeanBringing poetry to life – theBigBuzz.biz


Little Feet fly high at York Theatre Royal

York Theatre Royal rang to the sounds of birdsong plus the patter of (relatively) tiny feet last Saturday. Why? Because storyteller Catherine Heinemeyer and I were putting on performances of our Flying High show there as part of the fourth Little Feet Festival of Children’s Theatre.

Catherine Heinemeyer and I performing Flying High at York Theatre Royal

Catherine Heinemeyer and I performing Flying High at York Theatre Royal (Photo: Eloise Ross)

Flying High takes you into the wonderful world of birds, through rhythm, rhyme, story and song. And – on this occasion – finger-puppets too.

Finger puppet at Flying High at York Theatre Royal

(Photo: Eloise Ross)

It was fabulous to see so many young children in the theatre, enjoying the (newly refurbished) spaces, and the shows and activities put on specially for them.

Taking part in Flying High

Taking part in Flying High (Photo: Eloise Ross)

How did our show go down?

Ursula’s mum called it ‘a wonderful show. My daughter loved it and was talking about it today when I poured her water at tea time!’

Listening to Catherine's story ...

Listening to Catherine’s story … (Photo: Eloise Ross)

And Festival co-organiser, Juliet Forster of York Theatre Royal, said she had ‘really enjoyed’ our show, and that it had been ‘a great addition to the festival’.

(Photo: Eloise Ross)

(Photo: Eloise Ross)

Flying High comes in lots of flavours, to suit different ages and attention spans, from tinies right through to grown-ups. Let us know if you’d like us to come fly high where you are!

(Photo: Eloise Ross)

(Photo: Eloise Ross)

Meanwhile, if you haven’t checked out the newly revamped York Theatre Royal, do. See what a £6 million redevelopment looks and feels like!

Anneliese Emmans DeantheBigBuzz.biz – Bringing poetry to life