As we come back into the beginning of another bee season, it is once again time to share our knowledge of bees and get as many people interested as possible. The hobby of bee keeping has become the indicator of a healthy environment and aids in a healthy lifestyle. We have all been witness to the media coverage on honey bee declines and certain words may ring some bells when you hear ‘’colony collapse disorder’’ and ‘’varroa’’. This has resulted in a increase of people interested in volunteering for bees in a whole variety of subject areas from bee keeping to bee genetics. Bees have been around for more than 30 million years.
Busy colleting nectar, pollen and propolis, ensuring plants are always pollinated thus their critical role in the conservation of life.
The history of bee keeping
Man’s association with Apis mellifera is ancient. A skill that has been developed over many, many millennia and is a craft that is always changing. It is thought to have first started through the act of honey hunting. Cave paintings south America, Mexico and Peru are a testament to how our ancestors hunted for honey. In the late 18th century, the queen bee was though to be a king bee, this is because at the time, the idea of a female queen was deemed preposterous. As years passed, times changed, it was soon thought that the best way of harvesting honey was to attract them into containers instead of climbing trees and high up places and then put a personal claim on the nest.
Bee space was thought of by Reverend Langstroth in 1852.
How it has changed over time?
What are the pros and cons?
Provide us with valuable food items, medicinal purposes, pollination and if organic, will never go off. Produce bees wax that can be used in polishes, candle making and creams. Propolis is a well know anti biotic. Royal jelly is thought to be an effective aphrodisiac. Honey bee venom has medicinal properties to relieve arthritis and some back problems. It also has a recreational value as it gets you outside, engaging with nature and breathing fresh air.
How is bee keeping today?
Some of the modernised agriculture practices, transmission of disease, invasive species and improper use of pesticides and in some rare cases, failed attempts at biocontrol have been known to be threatening to both solitary and social bees. The varroa mite crossed into the uk from its natural host, the Asian honey bee, this meant our honeybee’s had no natural defences against it.
Pests & other issues:
Varroa mites, American foul brood, European foul brood, small hive beetle, woodpeckers, rodents, slugs, wasps, heavy wind and vandalism.
Over the past 40 years, we have lost 95% of our wild flower meadows, 50% of our ancient forests and 60% of our heathland (Pam Gregory & Claire waring, 2017).
What do they like to go to?
Ivy, clover, brambles, honeysuckle, lavender, rape seed, apples, cherries, flax.
Are bees healthy?
How can you get involved and is it right for you?
Before getting into bee keeping and jumping into it with passion and enthusiasm, it is important to read up on it and maybe volunteer for your local bee keeping group. The keeping of bees is rewarding however it requires time, energy and some degree of resources. You must also ensure that you set up their new home correctly. A happy bee is the best bee! Ask your neighbours if they are comfortable with you having bees also!
Through the seasons, A general view of life inside the hive for a year
By spring, workers in the hive will gradually raise the core temperature of the hive to activate the queens laying cycle.
By summer, thousands of workers have been tended too as brood and are ready to emerge from the hive to forage.
As autumn approaches, brood rearing and egg laying decreases and the bees begin to huddle as they do in winter.
In winter, bees huddle together to maintain energy and heat. At the beginning of winter or a few weeks before, the queen will stop laying. As the cold days grow longer, egg laying by the queen increases in preparation for the next season. There are only >5000 worker bees during this period. Drones (Males) are evicted or have died.
Colony structure – The basics
Workers -Many roles
- Hive bees
- Drones – Males
The queen lays more than 1000 eggs each day!
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