Hope for Honey Bees by Cathy Bryant of High Wycombe Beekeepers Association

  • Bees are very interesting creatures; we are used to seeing them on flowers and their buzzing is part of summer, but we often don’t appreciate quite how much they do for us.

    We mainly think of bees as producing honey, but honey bees are just one of Britain’s 267 species. The rest are wild bumblebees and solitary bees. All species of bee collect nectar and pollen as food, and at the same time they pollinate a large proportion of our fruit and vegetables. If they didn’t, the plants would not produce the fruit, berries and seeds that we eat. Much of our wildlife also relies on bees and other pollinators (butterflies, moths, hoverflies, flies and beetles) – to pollinate plants so new ones can grow and so those plants can feed many insects, birds and animals.

    But honey bees are in trouble and the numbers of many wild bumblebees and solitary bees are dropping. Two bumblebee species are already extinct. Bee decline is caused by many things – changes in land use, habitat loss, development, disease, pesticides, farming practices, pollution, invasive species and climate change. This is all the more worrying because bees are such a key species in the ecosystem.

    Queen Honey Bee Once mated she will stay in the hive until such time as they decide to swarm and then she will go with them leaving queen cells to hatch in the remainder of the hive, to start a new colony. She will lay 1500 to 2000 eggs a day 6 million in her life span of 5 years. The queen gives off pheromones which determine the behaviour of the colony. The colony will not survive if there is no queen.

    A Drone is male and there are usually about 2000 in a colony. The Queen lays unfertilised eggs to produce males early in the spring ready for mating. Drones are bigger than the females and do not have a sting. They collect in drone congregations on a tree branches waiting for virgin queens to pass by and then mate in flight. After mating they die.

    Worker Honey Bees are produced from fertilised eggs. There are 58,000 in a colony and could be more depending on the hive size. As they develop they have different jobs around the hive. House cleaning, wax building, Nurse bees and Guard bees. At three weeks old they then go on collection duties for Nectar Water pollen and propolis and will continue to do this until they die at six weeks old.

    Bee Hives

    We recommend you only put a bee hive with bees in your garden if:

    • The garden is suitable and doesn’t affect the neighbours or general public
    • That you take a course in beekeeping so you know what to do. Get in contact with www.hwbka.co.uk for more information we are happy to help.
    • You may want a hive in the garden but don’t want to keep bees yourself. We have beekeepers who are always looking for space to put a hive and maintain it as long as they have easy access to your property.

    We believe everyone can make a difference by planting plants in your garden to help the bees and also feed you. Bees help to produce most of our fruit and vegetables, as well as many other crops.

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