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Beekeeping update

Joe and dad beekeeping

Hello there, you glorious, honey noshing lot! We’re buzzing about the extra bit of sun we’re managing to grab down south this week, although we have already been told by the Northern members of The Hive to stop being so smug, because it hasn't been as delightful up there. Sorreeee guys!

Anyway, we’re actually banging on about the weather because it has had an impact on the most important members of the Just Bee team: Pa Harper and his bees! Regular readers will remember that last time we checked in, Pa Harper’s (Joe’s dad) newly merged family of bees were living harmoniously, and the Queen was laying eggs like nobody’s business  – amazing! “So what’s the latest?”, we hear you cry. Read on to find out….

The bees they are a-swarming:

It’s a busy old life for a bee (and a beekeeper). Even after two hives have been merged successfully, this does not mean they’ll all live together, happily ever after for ever more. If only it were that simple! As Pa H informed us, “a colony’s whole purpose is to multiply” which means if it decides there’s enough of them, the Queen will go on her merry way, taking half of the gang with her!  A swarm.

What happens to the ones that are left behind? “The worker bees have actually planned ahead” (like ALL women then, we’d venture…), “they choose some eggs to be fed with extra royal jelly before the Queen flys away, meaning at least one will then hatch out as a new Queen”. How resourceful of them! (Scarily though, sometimes the first newborn Queen will go and kill the other Queen cells before they can even hatch, to ensure her own role is safe. I suppose it’s every gal for herself in these hard times though).

Swarming usually happens in May or June, but our crazy weather being what it is, and bees having their own plans, Pa Harper’s bees swarmed in early August!  Obviously it is very sad that they’ve gone, but the bees know best.

What happens to the ones that got away?

We were really curious about this – I mean, what does a gang of absconding bees do once they’ve flown the nest/hive? According to Pa Harper, “they don't go very far. Usually around 50 yards away, and they’ll then gather together to make a temporary home (it usually looks a bit like a rugby ball!) whilst the scouting bees are sent out to go and find a new nest site.”

So basically, they all hang out in temporary accommodation for a day or so until they decide on a new home. The exciting thing is that sometimes, said temporary accommodation can be in a nearby garden. In which case, they’d usually call a beekeeper to come and collect it, upon which he brings it back and puts it in a new empty hive / new home. (If only they’d have asked him first I am sure he’d have been very obliging at finding them a new hive, save them all that trouble). Unfortunately Pa Harper didn't have any such calls about his own swarming bees. 

bee smoker

It can be a dangerous old thing, being a Queen

Whilst Queeny is waiting for her minions to sort her out with a new palace, she is actually more at risk than any of her subjects. Apparently some birds are a bit partial to a bit of Queen Bee canapé, which makes her time outside of the hive very risky.

Gulp. Maybe we’re not as jealous of her royal status after all. Especially when you consider how busy she’s kept. Pa H explains, “she lays day and night, maybe up to 2000 eggs a day at peak times of the year, more than her own body weight! And she goes on just one mating flight to be able to achieve this.”  

That’s a very busy schedule – where does she get her ‘me time’ for Gawd’s sake? Mind you, it could be worse, the drone (male) bee dies in the mating process, which must come as a massive disappointment for him. To say the least. OK, enough about the birds and the bees, lol.


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