Today’s Treasures – Bees
Some interesting facts about bees:
- There are over 25,000 species of bees.
- Honeybees live in a colony, but many bees are solitary and nest alone – but often near to other bees.
- Most bees live for about 6 weeks, but some bees live for years.
- In one day, a foraging honeybee can visit up to 2000 flowers.
- It takes around 12,000 bee hours to make a 1.5 kg jar of honey.
Male bees do not sting, and their job is to mate with the queen. The worker honeybees are female and do sting – but only when it’s really necessary as they are damaged in the process and die afterwards.
Turning nectar into honey is a two-stage process involving chemically changing the sugars in the nectar from complex to simple sugars and reducing the water content. When complete, the honeybees seal the honeycomb with a white wax cap. This keeps the honey fresh in a natural airtight container for the winter.
If natural, raw, unfiltered honey is stored properly in sealed containers it can last virtually forever – the bees’ honey-making process combined with the high sugar content and low pH prevent organisms from damaging it.
Bees love my herb garden, sage and thyme, lavender and chives – and, later in the year, hyssop, rosemary and marjoram – and they love the wild flowers – especially comfrey and foxgloves. I’ve spent many relaxing hours watching them popping into foxglove bells and cleaning the pollen off the fairy shoes – as Enid Blyton so elegantly described the stamens.
Wild flowers are generally much better for bees – cultivated forms are often hybrids propagated by cuttings and they have evolved without need for pollinators so most produce little nectar or pollen. So, plant old-fashioned varieties of hellebore, salvia, rudbeckia, cosmos, sedum and verbena – and snowdrop and crocus for early spring when there are very few flowers – they provide a much-needed source of pollen for our bees.
Some businesses have planted wild flowers around their car parks and installed beehives – like Midcounties Co-operative – who now have a head beekeeper, Lee Franklin, at their head office in Warwick.
Published in the July edition of the Whitchurch Gossip