Last Saturday saw us welcome Willie Robson from Chain Bridge Honey Farm to what was possibly our last meeting at the Laing Art Gallery. He said so much it’s not possible to repeat it all, so here are ten things I didn’t know about bees before last Saturday.
1. They don’t just collect nectar and pollen, they collect water too. Honey is 70% water and is needed by the juveniles who can’t yet leave the hive.
2. So if you want to encourage bees in your garden, make sure you have a water source too. When the water is cold, make sure that you have something such as straw floating on the surface so that the bees can climb out if the water is too cold for them
3. A ‘bee bowl’ is an indentation in a wall built to protect the hive from sun, winds and frost.
4. Bees have only been domesticated for 150 years.
5. Bee numbers are dropping partly because of the change in agricultural methods. The old crop rotation system used to include a year of growing white clover, which is one of the bees’ favourite foods.
6. In Northumberland there is still a lot of clover around but it isn’t the indigenous white variety so our local bees don’t like it.
7. Another reason for decreasing bee numbers is because of their reduced resistance to disease. It is thought that the main reason for this is overbreeding to produce bees without stings, and bees which can produce more honey.
8. The first two weeks of a bee’s life is spent in the hive on cleaning duties. We parents could learn a lot from bees!
9. Each hive contains an average of 50,000 bees.
10. Queen bees used to live up to five years, but now only live for two. This is either because of the veroa mite, or because of pollution, or maybe both.