Did you see the article on honeybees on BBC Countryfile on Sunday 26th November ’23? Whilst covering a number of topics it essentially focused on adulteration of honey with an interview with Lynne Ingram of Somerset BKA. Then a visit to Aston University for a research project developing the concept of a spectrometer test for pure honey that will eventually be available as an app on mobile ‘phones!
A link to the BBC Countryfile programme below – the article starts at 38 minutes 29 seconds into the programme.
BBC4 is repeating the excellent ‘The Wonder of Bees’ programme by Martha Kearney – 4 episodes from Monday to Thursday at 7pm this week (26th to 29th June ’23) – link to the BBC4 programme here
Thursday 17th February ’22 and this hard working lady returned to the hive so overladen with pollen that she couldn’t get into the hive on her own without a long rest!
Photo from Colin Hoskins.
- There are three types of bee in a colony – one Queen, approximately 60,000 Workers (which are all female), and about 2,000 Drones (which are all male)
- The Queen lays between 1,500 and 2,000 eggs a day in the peak of season of April, May, and June – more than her own bodyweight! The Workers feed her all day to keep her going.
- Worker bees live for only thirty five days in the summer. They spend the first three weeks working in the hive and move outside to pollen and nectar gathering duties after that.
- Whilst life seems easier for the male Drones, at the end of the summer the Workers bite their wings off and throw them out of the hive. (I thought you said you loved me!!) All bees will always leave the hive to die, if possible.
- The bees keep the temperature in the hive at a constant 34 degrees Centigrade – summer and winter. They produce body heat by flexing their muscles on cold days and fan their wings to keep cool on hot days. Can you imagine – keeping the inside of an old wooden box in the middle of a winter storm at 34 degrees simply by flexing your muscles?
- Honey bees have 5 eyes – one of which can see ultra violet light. Flowers switch on an ultra violet light to show bees that they have nectar ready – thus allowing the bees to visit only those blossoms that are ready for them.
- Bees are brilliant navigators and use the sun and other landmarks to find their way. If a beekeeper moves a hive just a few inches, the bees return to the exactly same spot where the entrance had been and then walk along the hive to its new position.
- Foraging bees perform a special dance to show other bees where to find flowers with the best nectar and pollen.
- Guard (worker) bees sting ONLY to defend the colony – putting themselves in the danger area to defend the rest of the colony. They work hard to drive an invader away before stinging because she is killed by the act of stinging. Only Worker bees sting people, male bees (Drones) can’t sting, and queen bees only ever sting rival queens.
- Honeybees are classed as social insects and live in colonies of approximately 60,000 bees in the summer. The number of bees falls to about 10,000 in the winter. Each bee works in co-operation with others, focused on the good of the whole colony. Recent research suggests that we should regard a colony as a super-organism with each individual bee contributing to the whole colony – in a similar way to the cells in a human body.
- A worker honeybee takes 21 days to grow from an egg to a young bee – going through the phases of egg, larva, and then pupa before emerging as a young bee. She starts working in the hive from the moment she is born and immediately starts on cleaning duties.
- There are 200 types of bees in the UK
- The UK has lost about 97% of its wild flower meadows since the Second World War. The consolidation of farm fields, the move to mono culture crops, and some pesticides have similarly badly effected the foraging opportunities. Recent research has shown that the Honeybees are having to adapt to other types of forage.
- Britain had 146,000 registered beekeepers in the late 1940’s. To-day there are only about 25,000 beekeepers
There have been some excellent TV programmes about honeybees on BBC4 – both repeats from earlier years but excellent nevertheless. The first on Sunday 1st August was Bill Turnbull with ‘What’s killing our bees’ and can be found via this link: The second is a series of four programmes that started on Monday 2nd August with three following episodes on each of the subsequent evenings called ‘The Wonder of Bees’ by Martha Kearney asking a master beekeeper questions on beekeeping.- at 7.30pm also on BBC4. The first episode (and others) can be found from this link:
There was an excellent programme on Radio 4, ‘Beyond Belief‘, discussing beekeeping by members of three different faiths – Christian, Jewish and Muslim. The pleasures and relevance of beekeeping are consistent for all three and the programme accurately and vividly describes the common rewards of keeping bees – rather than differences in religious celebrations. Well spent 30 minutes listening to by all – whether of faith or none.
There have also been some fascinating articles on honeybees on the excellent BBC ‘Animal Einsteins’ programmes by Chris Packham. The second episode shows some very recent research on the communication between honeybees – the honeybee article starts at 25 minutes in.
The third episode has an amazing article about the precision and brilliance of honeybees in building honeycomb. The conclusion is that mankind is a long way behind the natural world in building structures and that the latest man made buildings are imitating those skills. The article starts at 39 minutes and 20 seconds in.
Our Pollinators provide a vital contribution in the fight against climate change! Please see the New Scientist article found by Cathy
Remember to tell your friends about honey bees and the wonderful work they do for the planet.