A colony of bees is a super-organism. The queen who lays all the eggs daily, approximately three thousand drones (male bees) and possibly 50 - 60 thousand female worker bees work in harmony at the peak of summer in the hive.
The bees work together for the colony to survive, no one bee can live alone. The numbers reduce throughout the winter to rebuild again in the spring.
Bees forage and collect pollen, nectar and water to feed their queen, the young larvae and themselves. Whilst foraging, they pollinate fruits, flowers, vegetables and crops of which we eat daily. Every third item of food is deemed to be because of pollinating insects.
The spare honey in the hives is removed by the beekeeper and enjoyed as one of the most natural nutritious, and healthy foods available.
So why become a bee keeper?
To help support and care for these amazing bees in their colonies, to help them to survive, because without them we would struggle to exist .
Let's just consider what makes honeys bees so very special and why certain individuals feel they want to become a beekeeper.
Common terms used
as explained honey bees are massive pollinators providing food not only to humans but the effect of pollination helps feed numerous animals and birds in the food chain forging a vital link in creating the diversity in the environment we all enjoy.
keeping honey bees results in acquiring a supply of your own honey for your family.
Honey produced by pollen and nectar collected from Wildflowers has a different flavour to one produced from brambles or lime trees. Sampling the various honey is a wonderful experience. Medicinally, raw honey is stated to boost the immunity system, relieves sore throats, provide antioxidants, aid digestion, reduce allergies, heal wounds, and provide antibiotic properties. Honey can be sold by the beekeeper in many different formats: runny honey, crystallised honey, soft set honey, heather honey, honey on the comb and numerous others.
Honey can be used for cooking both in sweet and savoury dishes.
Beekeepers have local and national honey shows, where they can if they wish, exhibit honey and other hive products.
Pride In helping nature
Honey bees are threatened by disease and predators, beekeepers support the bees by providing hives in suitable apiaries; they aim to prevent disease and monitor for disease and predators, their actions can reduce loss of colonies and strengthen the honey bee population. Recently new predators to the UK or close to the mainland have added further risks to their existence. Putting on the bee suit, and helping care for the honey bees is a wonderful experience and privilege.
this beautiful natural substance is produced by honey bees and moulded in the hive to create the hexagon-shaped cells into which the queen lays her eggs. Beekeepers often use the beeswax to make a variety of candles, polish, skin creams, cosmetics, wax for wood, and use wax for encaustic paintings, to name only a few uses.
yet another amazing product produced by the bees by using sap collected from trees and mixed and blended with bee enzymes. The propolis acts very much like a super glue, it seals the hive and fills in cracks and holes to prevent weather, dampness and unwanted visitors gaining access to the hive through small crevices.
The propolis also has an antibacterial property and is used within the hive to reduce risk of infection, also frequently used in hand and skin products due to its anti microbial and antioxidant benefits.
Honey is used to make mead , an alcoholic sweet or dry honey wine, which is basically fermented honey mixed with a variety of ingredients . The tradition of mead making goes back to our ancestors.
It would be wrong of me not to mention bee stings. Bees do not want to sting, if they do they die, the sting once used causes damage to the abdomen of the honey bee resulting in death of the bee. The bees only want to protect their hive and care for their colony.
Generally a bee sting is not a cause of great concern to the major of individuals, with the sting giving a slight local reaction, which soon disappears.
A fact not actually proven, but thought to be effective in some, is that the venom of the bee relieves arthritic pain, this is an interesting subject being investigated.
A powerful food. Literally made for a queen , this jelly is made from honey, nectar, digested pollen and other secretions from the bee resulting in a food substance, it is fed to all bees for a short time, but constantly fed to the growing queen bee.
This amazing substance is sought after by humans with claims that it rejuvenates skin and produces an overall general well being.
Part of being a good beekeeper is being aware of the honey bees needs and their predators. The Rugby Beekeeping Association provides friendly monthly meetings where beekeepers meet and listen to speakers discussing various topics , the Association also offers the education, mentorship and support necessary to care new beekeepers and their bees.
Courses are also run locally for new and more experienced beekeepers to continue to update and provide a better understanding of the honey bee.