[quote text_size=”medium” author=”Albert Einstein”]
If the Bee disappears off the face of the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.[/quote]
I am now officially a Beekeeper. Well… I’ve bought a hive. I’ve registered myself with the beekeepers association. I’ve read a book. Ok, so I don’t actually have any bees yet but that’s just a technicality.
Apparently if I wait long enough, one day a colony in search of a new home may find my hive and set up home, however that is for patient beekeepers and I’m absolutely sure I’m not that kind of beekeeper.
Buying a colony will set me back about £80 and one colony is all I need to ensure endless honey for my toast each day, enough honey pots to do my entire family for Christmas presents and of course, plenty of time wearing that funky white gortex suit ( Is it just me?).
On a serious note, I’m doing my bit for a larger cause because the truth is, if we don’t all try and make a concerted effort to help these creatures, we can say goodbye to life as we know it. For a basic start, plants won’t be able to reproduce .One third of our diet will be gone. The cotton we make our clothes from-gone. The wax we use for furniture, lighting, toiletries, cosmetics and medicine-gone. The £212 million honeybee pollination contributes to the UK economy or the £15 billion to the U.S or the £3.6 million to the Australian economy…all gone. Put it this way: if the United States alone had to employ even low wage labourers to hand-pollinate crops, it would cost an estimated £64 billion a year to do so.
By now most of us are aware that Honeybees are dying. Everywhere. All over the world. The peculiar thing is that no one really knows why. Throughout history bees have suffered a loss in numbers due to all sorts of reasons such as parasites feeding off them and mites living in their wind pipe. They’ve even seen a plague of mad bee’s disease send them loopy and unable to find their way back to their hives.
The current problem is now being referred to by some as Colony Collapse disorder (or CCD) and is baffling scientists and beekeepers alike. Beekeepers are pulling the lid off their hives only to find the entire colony gone, with their queen and her babies left behind. Some find their bees scattered on the floor around the hive, either dead or paralyzed.
There are many who believe CCD is the result of toxic fertilizers being used on crops. Other theories blame genetically modified crops, immune system-depleting viruses to mobile phone frequencies messing with their minds. And yes, they do have minds .Actually their quite clever creatures.
A colony is made up of hundreds of hard working family members. The Queen is the only reproductive female and it’s her job to fly around the hive and send out her pheromones to be impregnated by multiple lusty males. Her scent can be detected for up to six miles which is how far a male bee will travel to bee with her(see what I did?). These Males are called drones and impregnating women is their sole purpose. In fact, they die immediately after mating.
Back at the hive, we have the ‘security guard’ bees, who act as protectors and like bouncers at a night club; they won’t let a strange looking bee in. Inside the hive the ‘cleaner’ bees keep the place immaculate and also act as nannies to the larvae (baby bees), feeding them royal jelly to ensure they grow strong. The ‘foragers’ are the bees that most of us see on a daily basis. They’re the ones who make endless trips collecting nectar from the flowers to turn into honey and pollen to build the honey comb and feed the other bees. When a forager returns with her find she will perform a ‘waggle’ dance for the other foraging bees. This dance tells the others where the nectar can be found, communicating the exact distance and time it will take to get there. Foragers will accumulate about six air miles in their life, each trip carrying up to half their body weight, only to die of exhaustion three weeks later. Talk about self sacrifice for the greater good!
I’m not suggesting that we all go out and buy bee hives (you’d have to be mad to do that) but there are a few simple little things that we can all do to give them a helping hand…to encourage an abundance of breeding and plenty of nectar for them to collect. If you do decide to do out and buy a hive, help and advice can be found on …………and no, you don’t need a big garden. In actual fact, you could actually keep it on a balcony in a high rise flat.
The following is a copy from The British Beekeepers Association.
10 THINGS TO DO TO HELP HONEY BEES
1. Ask your local MP to lobby for £8 million from the £10 million government bee and Pollinator health fund to be spent on honey health research.
Beekeepers are worried that not enough is known to combat the diseases that affect honey Bees. Bee pollination contributes £200 million annually to the agricultural economy. The BBKA Has costed a five-year £8 million programme to secure the information to save our bees. During This period, honey bee pollination will contribute £1 billion to the national economy. The Government recently announced a £10million initiative to tackle the decline of bees and other Pollinators but has not specified what it will commit to research into honey bee diseases, nor Whether it will follow the BBKA research plan.
Write to your local MP to get the £8 million needed spent on honey bees. Make a donation to the Bee Health Research Fund. www.britishbee.org.uk
2. Join the beekeepers
Beekeeping is an enjoyable, fascinating and interesting hobby – and you get to eat your own honey too. Local beekeeping associations run courses every year to help new people to take up beekeeping, find the equipment they need and a colony of bees. They welcome people interested in beekeeping to observe apiary meetings in the summer. Programmes allow enthusiasts to become Master Beekeepers. For information visit the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) web site www.britishbee.org.uk
3. Plant bee friendly plants
Where there are few agricultural crops, honey bees rely upon garden flowers for a diverse diet of nectar and pollen. Encourage honey bees to visit your garden by planting single flowering plants and vegetables. Go for the allium family, all the mints, beans and flowering herbs. Bees like daisy shaped flowers – asters and sunflowers, also tall plants- hollyhocks, larkspur and foxgloves. www.britishbee.org.uk has leaflets on bee-friendly trees and shrubs.
4. Find space for beehives
Many would- be beekeepers, especially in urban areas, find it difficult to find a safe space for their colony of bees. If you have some space in your garden, or know some who has, contact your local beekeeping association and they could find a beekeeper in need of a site. It is amazing what a difference a beehive will make in a garden. Crops of peas and beans will be better, fruit trees will crop well with un-deformed fruit and your garden will be buzzing!
5. Bee friendly
When kept properly, bees are good neighbours, and only sting when provoked. Beekeepers wear protective clothing when they are handling bees. If a bee hovers inquiringly in front of you when unprotected, do NOT flap your hands. Stay calm and move slowly away, best into the shade of shed or a tree. The bee will soon lose interest. It is worth remembering that bees do not like the smell of alcohol on people, the ‘animal’ smell of leather clothing, even watchstraps.
Bees regard dark clothing as a threat – it could be a bear! Bees are sometimes confused by scented soaps, shampoos and perfumes, best avoided near the hive.
6. Protect swarms
Swarming is the natural process by which colonies of honey bees increase their numbers. If you see a swarm contact the local authority or the police – they will contact a local beekeeper to collect the swarm. Honey bees in a swarm are usually very gentle and present very little danger. They can be made aggressive if disturbed or sprayed with water. Just leave them alone and wait for a competent beekeeper to arrive.
7. Encourage local authorities to use bee friendly plants in public spaces Some of the UK’s best gardens and open spaces are managed by local authorities. Many recognise the value of planning gardens, roundabouts and other areas with flowers that attract bees. Encourage your authority to improve the area you live in by adventurous planting schemes, and offer to help look after them if resources are in short supply.
8. Buy local honey if you can
Buying local honey helps local beekeepers to cover costs of protecting bees. Local honey is processed naturally and complies with all food standards requirements without damage to the honey. It tastes different to foreign supermarket honey and has a flavour that reflects local flora.
9. Do not keep unwashed honey jars outside the back door
Believe it or not but honey brought from overseas can contain bacteria and spores that are very harmful to honey bees. If you leave a jar outside it encourages honey bees to feed on the remaining honey. There is a good possibility that this will infect the bee who will infect the rest of the colony resulting in death of the colony. Always wash out honey jars and dispose of them carefully.
10. Learn more about this fascinating insect
Beekeeping is fascinating. Honeybees have been on this earth for about 25 million years and are ideally adapted to their natural environment. Without honey bees the environment would be dramatically diminished.. Invite a beekeeper to come and talk to any local group you support and give an illustrated talk about the honey bee and the products of the hive. They might bring honey too. Honey bees are a part of our folklore and are one of only two insect species that are managed to provide us with essential services.