May Meeting - Honey to the (Bumble) Bee

Sunday, 1 June 2014 § 0

Last meeting we had the lovely Alex Brown Minster FM Presenter and Beekeeper come and talk to us about bees. He took up beekeeping 5 years ago and he told us all about the life cycle of the honeybee, what life is like for the queen bee, the drones and the workers, what inside a hive looks like and most importantly what we can do to help nurture and support the honeybee population.

Along the way we learnt that when the queen bee mates she gets enough sperm to last her for six years, that bees have little pockets on their knees that can store pollen (the origin of the phrase bees knees) and that one in three of the mouthfuls we eat is thanks to the bees pollinating the crops. Plus if you see a swarm of bees and can capture them they become yours and this is the origin of the phrase 'freebies' as bees are literally free to anyone who can catch them.

The average year for a bee goes like this:
In winter they huddle together in the hive for warmth, around February time when the crocuses come out they emerge from the hive and start foraging,and the colony begins to grow, from May to July they swarm a lot, in August they start building up their winter stores of food and by the autumn wintertime they're back in the hive to keep warm.  

He explained that the biggest threats to bee populations at the moment are the damaging effects of the varroa mite, the decline in bees natural habitat and the use of pesticides.
But there are things we can do to help support the bee population:
1 Plant bee friendly plants
2 Create more natural habitats
3 Be more lazy when it comes to gardening as bees love a more natural as opposed to overclipped garden
4 Avoid using pesticides
5 Use jam and not honey in wasp traps
6 Calling the Beekepers Association (details can be found on their website: if we see a swarm.

He also told us that if we have some honey and it has crystallised then you can get it to unsolidify if you heat it up very gently in some warm water and that beekeeping is a rewarding and satisfying hobby - even if on occasion you can get stung. It was a fascinating insight into the life of the honeybee and if you weren't there you missed a treat.

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