Last month, Red Kites, this month, Honey Bees. The variety of the life around us on the farm both human and otherwise can be staggering.
In a colony of bees you may have thousands of these insects taking up their roles in keeping their species going.
- The Queen Bee, who will spend a lot of time laying a lot of eggs
- The drone, a lazy, good-for-only-one-thing male
- The worker, an astonishingly hard working, sterile and short-lived female
Local beekeeper since the age of eleven, Euan Brierley, informed us of some of the facts surrounding these tiny creatures in the midst of Vicar’s Orchard at the end of June. It turns out that the location is entirely suitable as the inventor of the modern beehive structure most widely used was Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth who patented his design in 1852. The dimensions of the hives were based on champagne boxes which of course most Vicars will have lying about somewhere!!!
Euan with eager intern Tyler and a lot of bees
Bees will fly a couple of miles to check out the local environment for their food, and Ardeley is happily filled with gardens of bee friendly flowers. Euan tells of his own adventures with his father driving up to the North of England with hives in the back of the car in search of nectar and to help pollinate local flora.
We looked inside the hives, both British Standard and Top Bar varieties, one more geared to man’s needs than those of the bees. Questions rained in about royal jelly, colony level decision making and levels of honey production, beeswax and waterproofing, sugar syrup and organic bee keeping, as well as pollen types and honey intoxication!
Istvan examining Emma’s Top Bar Hive
Euan has avoided the dreaded varoa mite amongst his bees for over four years, and puts it down to only taking what is reasonable, rather than replacing honey with sugar syrup when harvesting the crop.
Many thanks to Euan for his willingness to share his learning and his bees, to Darren for organising our introduction to bees, and Emma for helping to support and extend the farm’s involvement with them. Also to the interested interns and volunteers who resemble the hard working, worker bees and managed to fit in a class after the usual demands of a day on the farm.
Darren, Euan, Su, Eva, Tyler, Andy, Amber, Istvan and Viv and some bees!
N.B. When the time comes for that talk about the Birds and the Bees it is really a very difficult and rather terrifying example, for a male at least, of the consequences of copulation! As the Queen flies high into the air, to tempt the strongest drone, his success is rewarded by being emasculated on decoupling!