Story by Linda Cawley | Photo by Nick Walker
It is spring and the queen is laying more, the bees are flying and the time is coming to inspect the hives. It has to be some fourteen degrees before we can “go into” the hives, check the queen is laying, there is no disease and the bees are still there.
Keeping bees is as old as the hills and attracts people from all walks of life. My introduction started with a visit to Loxley community farm and I was smitten… and stung. I have been keeping bees for almost five years now and my bee buddy and I manage eight hives.
When my first hive arrived, I remember the experience, a bit like Christmas as a child. It was late spring cold and getting dark. I had plonked them down in the middle of a field out at Wharncliffe and couldn’t wait to get back and take a peek. They are best left to settle and explore their environment and although I was desperate to look I knew that if I went in too early I wouldn’t be welcome.
Worker bees make up the majority of the hive and are female. There is one queen whose main role is to lay eggs, although she has other roles in directing the hive and its life, but that’s for another time. Finally, there are the drones, male bees, whose sole function is to mate with the queen.
female (worker) bees forage (for pollen), nurse newly hatched bees and guard the hive. Foraging takes its toll and eventually they die of exhaustion with an average life span of six weeks. All the time the queen is constantly laying more eggs and the bees maintain their numbers at least in the summer months.
The bees regulate the temperature of the hive. In the summer they flap their wings to cool down the hive and in the winter they huddle together to keep warm. Bees work hard in the spring, summer and autumn and in the winter they “take a rest”.
I love bee keeping and if there is a bee buzzing around you don’t swat it, send it back to me!