Celebrating World Bee Day – With Lisa

Celebrating World Bee Day – With Lisa

I have volunteered at the Atkinson since 2015 doing a variety of roles. Nothing, at least so far, has been quite as exciting as learning to look after the newly acquired bees. Our resident bee-keeper Andrea of B4biodiversity, has been a wonderfully patient and enlightening teacher, answering all our questions graciously and regaling us with bee facts. We have spent time learning about the different kinds of bees, the different castes (workers, drones, queens), and how the hive works.

Tuesday saw the much anticipated first visit to the hive, finally leaving the classroom to check the bees (and some of the frames for the hive that we had made in an earlier session). It was a little bit nerve racking and there was lots to remember. We’ve practiced putting on the bee suits, using the smokers to calm the bees, and handling the frames in the hive. But not all at once, getting hot in the beesuit, with the bees buzzing around your head. It was surprising just how noisy it was close to the hive, although Andrea assured us that they get a lot noisier as the population increases over the summer.  I constantly had to reassure myself that the bees really were on the outside of the mask, and not inside, and certainly not crawling up my back however much it felt like it. We agreed that there is an almost zen-like quality to the buzzing, and the absolute attention that you have to pay to what’s going on (eventually) became quite meditative.

It was absolutely fascinating to see how the bees had started to build up the 3D structure from wax frames that had only been in there for three days. Some of the cells were already shiny with the nectar that had been collected in the bottom. This was being turned into honey by evaporation and by the addition of bee enzymes. We tried to spot the larger rounder drones, but it was mainly the workers who were being industrious that filled the frames, although again Andrea informed us that they will get far busier. There seemed to be quite enough for a first look.

Our job once trained will be to check on the bees’ health, to check for mites in the hive, and to check that there is enough space for the bees to grow into. We will need to clear out any beeswax that is in the wrong place, and make sure that the hive is growing, At least that is the gist of what we’ve been told so far. There are probably more things for us to learn to do, but at the moment we’re getting used to being around the bees, showing them some healthy respect, and disturbing them as little as possible.

I volunteered for this role because I know something about how important bees are to the ecosystem,  and wanted to learn more. Something I have learnt from Andrea is that bees like the ‘weeds’ such as clover, dandelion and nettle, so we’re leaving some areas of my garden at home maybe a little bit wilder to give the bees a chance to feed, and planting some prettier flowers that the bees will like too. Bee homes are also easy to make at home, and provide shelter for solitary bees that pollinate fruit trees, so I’m putting a couple by the apple tree at the back. Who knows, at some point in the future (and with a bigger garden) keeping bees myself might well be on the cards. Until then I’m enjoying the opportunity to have a share in the Atkinson bees.

About World Bee Day:

World Bee Day, observed on the 20th of May, is a significant occasion that highlights the importance of bees worldwide. It serves as a reminder of the crucial role these small creatures play in our ecosystems. On this day, we reflect on the tireless work of bees as they diligently pollinate flowers and contribute to the delicate balance of nature.

It’s a time to appreciate their vital contribution to agriculture and the environment. So let us take a moment to recognise the significance of bees and the need to protect and conserve these remarkable creatures on World Bee Day.

Written by a volunteer. Working in co-operation with B4 Biodiversity.

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Posted on 17 May 2023 under Bees, General news

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