Last week I was invited along with Jane to check on the Dalefoot Honey Bees. What an incredible experience!
We have 5 hives of various types. Some traditional long hives, some box hives. Most of our bees are Dark or Black bees and they were bought as NUCs as locally as possible. Native, British Black Bees are more resilient to our northern, colder, damper climate sometimes flying during the damp weather and for longer during the day. Although they have a reputation of being slightly more aggressive, that certainly wasn’t the case on this afternoon. The bees were calm and busy away with their activities which helped subside my nerves.
We carried out a weekly check whereby we were looking over the health of the hives. We checked for the queen, female worker bees and male drone bees and any signs of swarming or re-queening, disease and stores. Hive checks are best carried out when the weather is fine and warm so as not to distress the bees.
In the photos you can see our long hive, home to over 60,000 thousand bees, replicating a more natural way for the bees to live. The colony live in the centre and build honey stores in the outer frames. The frames come with foundation combs on them which the bees build up to form cells. These cells hold bee larvae, honey or pollen. Because of the cold, wet weather we were not expecting to see much honey in the stores as the bees have not had opportunity to forage however, we were happy to see some. Jane will continue to monitor this and if food stock becomes too low she will feed them with syrup then fondant.
Aside from beekeeping being a fascinating and rewarding hobby, bee keeping plays an important role at Dalefoot. Human and environmental survival is reliant on the bees as pollinators, however bee numbers have been falling across the world with climate change, in-organic farming practices and habitat destruction the key causes. At Dalefoot we have continued our efforts to increase our wildlife habitats and biodiversity. We have been adding to our grass leys, tree planting, improving wild flower meadows and increasing our river corridors.
To say this afternoon was stimulating is an understatement. Reflecting on the experience, I find myself inspired to do more at home to help these extraordinary creatures. I will be increasing pollen and nectar rich flowers in the garden such as Salvia, Crocus, Echinacea, Cosmos and Verbena. Ill be selecting plants based on flowering times through the year ensuring early spring flowering when bees are foraging and looking to restock their depleted food stores. I am pleased to have and further understand the benefit of the trees in my garden - willow (a vital food source for bumblebees emerging from hibernation) and crab-apple trees, both rich in nectar and pollen. Finally, I will be learning more about bees with the aim to eventually having a hive of my own. Information https://www.bbka.org.uk/
How do you help the bees in your garden? Do you have or are you thinking of keeping a hive? We’d love to hear about your bee related experiences!