Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Us and Bees

Some 25 years ago I had a go at keeping bees. I did it on a shoe string and I was encouraged and nurtured by a fellow amateur radio colleague. I enjoyed learning a bit about these little work-a-holic pollinators that are so vital to our agricultural systems. I wrote a bit about it here.

I had a very second hand but functional veil, a home made smoker and four donated hives. I used a pair of heavy overalls as a bee smock, with taped up cuffs and turnups. I was a picture of bee keeping elegance in a sartorial sort of way.  I was fascinated by the way that a hive would be guarded against intruders and the bees own air conditioning system. But most of all, I enjoyed sharing the fruits of their labour. To this day, look in our kitchen cupboard and there are three different pots of honey in there. I have toast and honey almost everyday, I can't remember the last time I did not have toast and honey for breakfast.

For some reason bee keeping went into serious decline in my area around that time. Whats more when my neighbours realised that I had the hives hidden away between the greenhouse and the hedgerow. The complains started to roll in. I used to first of all ask the complainant how they knew that the problematic bees were my bees. I used to make up stories about having a strain of electric blue bees which had been bred without stings and if the bees were not blue they were not my bees. I made up a load of other such nonsense, but I did eventually give up keeping them.

I have been stung into action again. I have enrolled on a bee keeping course and joined my local bee keeping society. I now have a semi-rural location available where I will be able to keep few hives again. Not only that I have a friend who will keep an eye on my hives when I am away. My friend will also be keeping one or two hives for themselves in the same spot.

Beekeeping has suddenly become popular again, having been in gradual decline for more than half a century. Honeybees have been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Collapsing colonies, pesticide poisoning and parasitic mites. All this bad news seems to have triggered an almost primitive desire in people to want to help and nurture this vitally-important insect that, despite all our scientific advances, we still do not fully understand.

There are apparently similarities between us humans and bees according to the Memsahib - Most of the bees in a colony are worker bees, which are female and apparently they do all the work. The male bee (drone), does no work other than mate with the queen bee.

I know that the female bees and the queen possess stings. Bees are able to communicate to other bees where rich sources of nectar can be found. They do this by performing a “waggle dance”. The dance appears to demonstrate the direction in relation to the sun and the distance from the hive. The Memsahib can waggle a good dance! So the Memsahib could be right!

The best way to relieve the immediate effects of a sting is to apply some ice simply to reduce the pain and swelling. Urban Myth warning  putting honey or bi-carbonate of soda on to the site of a bee sting will not do anything to reduce the pain or swelling.


1 comment:

  1. Mike

    Very interesting to see that you are taking up Bee keeping again. I have always been interested but have never done anything about it, I hope to rectify this situation when we move in to our new house in a few weeks. In fact bee keeping and ham radio were a couple of important parameters in the house search.

    I will follow your bee exploits with interest.



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