Honey is for the bees. Now we get our reward.
A couple of years ago this swarm arrived in my garden and since Doug and I both love nature, we decided to buy a hive and give them a home. We called a local beekeeper to collect the swarm and place the colony into a hive. It proved successful.
Our belief is to keep our interference to a minimum; it is a method known as ‘natural beekeeping.’ The bees do know what they are doing. They want to survive, and they have had years of experience! We should listen to them and give them only what they need. They don’t appreciate being interfered with, and they don’t like their winter storage of food stolen!
Honey bees are struggling in the UK due to a variety of reasons. For one thing, we use pesticide and fungicide sprays far too liberally. Given the amount of flying a bee undertakes it is easy to see that before too long the bee will fly into the deadly mist and inject the particles. If it doesn’t kill them, it will harm them. Some chemicals throw off the bee’s navigation system making foraging and returning to the hive difficult. A confused, dysfunctioning bee is not a productive bee.
The second problem I have considered has wider implications than we may first realise. It relates to the amount of honey we take from the hives during autumn.
The honey is there to provide the bees with food during winter. It is quite normal for beekeepers to take a proportion of the honey and replace it with sugar water. I do not believe this is logical, and certainly not when we take excessive amounts. Let’s think about this for a second. Honey is full of goodness. It is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, it is a healing agent and a probiotic, and it has nutritional value, boosting our immune system. What does sugar water provide? Not a lot, aside from a little energy.
If we ate nothing but donuts, we would struggle to fight infection. It is the same for the bee. Spring is a time when bees need to be operating at their peak. They should be energised and ready to make new workers and drones, and potentially new queens; they should be gathering an abundance of pollen and nectar, and stocking up for later in the year when foraging becomes more difficult; they should be fighting fit.
Life is tough enough without our intervention. Bees are amazing little creatures, and it is an operation run by the girls. Let’s help them, not hinder them, and let’s not be greedy. They will pay us back many times over, not only with the pleasure we gain by watching them, but by producing healthy colonies and multiplying.
This time last year we had one hive, and now we have 3. Unfortunately, we did have 4 but one colony died last week. It is sad to see thousands of dead bees, but at least we had given them a chance. The queen was a virgin – in other words, not tried and tested – and so the chances of the colony surviving were slim. Figures crossed for the others.