As well as being crafters in beeswax products such as beeswax candles, and beeswax wood polish we are more than makers that is just a secondary part of our
business. Firstly we are beekeepers and we want to share with you all the facts we can starting with the basics.
Different types of bees.
There are about 200 different species of bees in the UK these are then broken down into the following three groups:
Solitary bees , these bees live and survive as individuals, the female is responsible for making the nest and for collecting the food for her young, she usually dies before they emerge from their cells. She lays a single egg in a small hole or nest packed with pollen and honey, you may have seen a mining bee emerging from a hole in a brick wall, this is where she has laid an egg.
Social bees, these are the bumble bees we see in our gardens from early spring right through to the end of summer.
They live in small colonies of several hundreds, all the workers (female) and drones (male) die out at the end of the year leaving just a few mated queens to hibernate through the winter. In the spring the new queen emerges finds a small cavity, sometimes a bird box or an old mouse hole, and builds a few small cells, lays a few eggs, collects all the food (pollen and honey) and rears the young on her own and when the new bees are old enough to fly, they look after the queen and take over the role of foraging and caring for the young while the queen carrys on laying eggs etc. All the work the bumble bees do over spring and summer is just to raise a few new queens to get through winter into spring to start the cycle of life again.
Advanced social bees, these are the honey bees. The main difference between honey bees and the other types of bees is the fact they do not all die out in the winter and they do not hibernate but remain in the hive all through winter into the spring. It is for this very reason they collect nectar and pollen and make and store away honey, so they have enough food for the winter, until the flowers with pollen and nectar start again in the spring. The queen lays all the eggs for the colony (up to 2000 a day in the peak of the season) and is cared for by the worker bees, she only leaves the hive when she is young a few times to get mated, and then spends the rest of her life (up to four years) in the hive. In a typical colony of bees during the peak of the season there can be in excess of 60,000 bees within one colony.
All the workers within the colony are female, produce by a fertilised egg by the queen, these are the most populous of the colony, the males (drones) are only produced when the colony is at adequate strength, with plenty of stores (pollen and honey). The sole purpose of the drone is to mate with new queens, the do not collect pollen or nectar, nor do they look after and feed the young, they don't even have a stinger. The drone dies soon after successfully mating and come the end of autumn they are ejected from the hive to die out by the workers.
Some key interesting facts about honey bees
Bees pollinate a third of our foods, and help other plants grow by transfering pollen between the male and female parts of the flower, for them then to produce new seeds
An average worker bee lives to 5-6 weeks, where she will produce around a teaspoon of honey during that time
They love to share information and communicate using a waggle dance.
They work hugely efficiently, they each have their role and its all done in complete darkness of the hive.
Each bee has 170 odorant receptors, to recognise each flower, and a danger
A bee can fly at around 25km per hour and beat their wings 200 times a second
Food for thought and for the bees
We can all do our bit for the bees and here is how
Bees use trees for pollen and nectar, popular trees and the trees bees love the most are
Almond, Apple, Cherry, Pear, Plum, Quince, Alder, Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Hazel, Holly, Horse Chestnuts, limes, Maples, Sweet Chestnut, and Sycamore
All popular and great for the garden, hedgerows, allotments and fields.
The list of crops that bees love to pollinate is huge, at least one third of what you eat has been pollinated by a bee. So we have named below just a few that you might recognise, as they are quite common in allotments and vegetable growers
Asparagus, Blackberries, Borage, Chives, Clovers, Cucumbers, Melons, Mustards, Field beans, Oilseed rape, Pumpkins, Raspberries, Sweetcorn, and Thymes.
Bees love weeds and they provide delicious honey.
There are literally thousands of wildflowers that we could list here but we again have stuck to the most common that you may recognise, seen or heard of.
Not all weeds or wildflowers are ugly its just become the norm not to have weeds in a garden, it is thought to be unmaintained, but that's not the case if you have the right ones, you not only you can have a great source of food for the bees, but it can look amazing too, something your neighbours will be jealous of.
Here's a few you might regonise
Basil, Blue thistles, Blue lupin, Borage, Catnip, Cornflower, Chickweed, Dandelion, Elder, Heather, Lemon balm, Marigold, Oregano, Peppermint, Poppy, Snowdrop, Yellow crocus, Clovers.
Years ago before we had fields and fields of crop or intensely packed, bees relied on these wildflowers for their food source.
They do however prefer the crops mainly because its in abundance and it uses less energy to go from flower to flower.
Why not check out our own honey that we make from our hives