Bees & Bee Keeping

Speaker: Roy Godfrey
27th October

Roy on the right with Chairman Liam Hutchings and Roy’s wife Trish on the produce stall at the back

Roy on the right with Chairman Liam Hutchings
and Roy’s wife Trish on the produce stall at the back

Roy “The Honey Man” stressed all through his talk that the beekeeper must be observant and inspect the hives and their colonies of bees frequently. There are three castes of honey bees: queens which produce eggs; drones or males, which mate with new queens and have no stingers and workers, which are all non-reproducing females. Worker bees harvest pollen and nectar and use populus resin which is a natural antiseptic gathered from poplar trees.

The populus is used to sterilise the hive. They fly in straight line “a beeline” and are not usually aggressive, they don’t sting people as a general rule. They forage for nectar over a 2 mile radius. The queen is 1.5 inches long and after being fertilised high up in the atmosphere by about 10/12 drones (which then die) can lay up to three million eggs in her lifetime, 2000 per day on 22 brood frames per hive. But she has Christmas off! A sign that the queen is laying is pollen on the legs of the worker bees. Bees without pollen may be robber bees after the colony’s food. The queen can live for about 4 years, workers only for five weeks.

One hive will contain 90 to 100 thousand bees and produce 200 pots of honey each year. The hive contains frame formers on which the bees live and make the “honeycomb”. There can be 3.5 thousand eggs per frame and there must be room to lay the eggs otherwise the bees will swarm and move off. The eggs are deposited in wax cells made in hexagon shapes the size of worker bee or drone bee eggs. The worker eggs are fertilised and laid five to the inch and the drone eggs are infertile and laid four to the inch.

Queens and drones are larger than workers and need larger cells to develop. It takes the queen 1.5 – 2.0 minutes per cell which are cleaned polished with populus by the workers. The eggs are laid vertical and the cell filled with nectar and honey. The hatched grubs are fed on royal jelly for two days and then nectar and honey. After 21 days we have a new worker bee and after 23 days a new drone bee.

A queen emerges after 16 days. Should a queen get killed or become aged a new queen is made by feeding a grub on royal jelly. To inspect the hive the beekeeper uses a “smoker”. This fools the bees into thinking there is a fire and they fill themselves up with food and become docile. Honey is taken from frames called “supers” and not from brood frames. A queen excluder prevents the queen from laying eggs on the super frames. No honey is taken after September as the bees need it to survive the winter.

He told us that bees are under threat from numerous causes. Woodpeckers drill holes in the hive and the drafts kill the baby bees. Mice get in and block up ventilation holes which causes mildew and makes the bees too hot, so mouse guards are put on hives to prevent this. The Verona parasite can be controlled by getting the mite to lay its eggs in a drone “foundation” which the kills the drones only. Roy encouraged us to get into beekeeping ourselves to increase the stock of bees essential for the fertilisation of crops. Even a spare bedroom could be used to keep a hive in!

Roy finished his entertaining and informative talk with a question and answer session and we were able to purchase some of his products ably presented by his wife Trish.

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