A bit about bees
Bees are so important to our environment. Their hard work is not only essential to healthy ecosystems, but to sustaining animal and human life too. They not only pollinate our food crops and gardens, but they make delicious honey and give us some amazing beeswax products.
DID YOU KNOW…Bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat.
They are nature’s hardest working pollinator and are responsible for pollinating most of the fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts that are essential to our daily diets. Honey bees, in particular play a huge role in agriculture.
It is important for us that everyone understands the essential role that bees have for our planet and to give advice on the basic few things we can each do to help improve bee health and wellbeing.
Bees need pollen and nectar to stay strong and healthy and to keep our gardens, food crops and native bush growing.
However, bees face many threats throughout their short life from pests, disease, climate change, habitat loss and pesticide use.
How we can help
We want to get everyone to help our mini superheroes stay healthy so they can keep doing the amazing work they do for us.
Every September is Bee Aware Month – a time when we can celebrate the marvelous work these creatures do.
Over the weeks our bee awareness campaign on social media has highlighted areas we can help.
Here are some top tips to help bees all year round:
Reducing our chemical usage in our garden can really help. Where possible try to use natural or organic solutions. Encourage insects like praying mantises and ladybirds to visit as they can help eliminate pests and use compost to help soil health.
In fact, pesticides are one of the primary drivers of the declining bee population.
If you do have to use chemicals, please don’t spray them near budding or flowering plants where bees and other insects are likely to forage. Spray in dry conditions and avoid spraying when it is windy; it’s safer for you too.
It's best to spot treat where you can rather than blanket spraying an entire area. Please also only spray after sunset.
Provide fresh, pesticide free water to help bees, especially through the hot summer months.
Like any living thing, bees need water too. Leave a shallow dish or even saucepan, fill with twigs and pebbles so the bees can rest on whilst they drink and place in a nice shady spot for them. They will also take droplets of water back to their colony to feed them.
By not mowing our lawns as often, can really help our bees, especially in Spring...
Cutting your lawn less and letting clover flowers grow, you are providing a source of food for bees. Let dandelions flower too and mow them before they go to seed.
Did you know that mowing a lawn once every two weeks instead of every week raises the number of bees by 30 percent.
You could also think about cutting smaller areas of lawn on a rotation so there are more flowers for our pollinators.
PLANT BEE GARDENS
By planting a bee garden, you can create a habitat corridor with plants that are rich in pollen and nectar. Bees are drawn to flowers with bright colours, particularly blue, white, and purple, so planting bee-friendly flowers in your garden are a great way to attract bees to your garden. This in turn provides them with the pollen and nectar they need. Some of the best flowers to grow are calendula, cornflower, poppy, nemophila, marigold, lavender, and alyssum. Also plant herbs such as sage, rosemary, basil, thyme, and mint as they are also bee favourites.
PROVIDE TREES FOR BEES
Bees actually get most of the nectar from trees. When a tree blooms, it provides hundreds — if not thousands — of blossoms to feed from. Therefore our trees are not only a great food source for bees, but also an essential habitat. Tree leaves and resin also provide great nesting material for bees, whilst natural wood cavities makes for the best shelters for them.
SUPPORT LOCAL BEEKEEPERS
Supporting your local beekeeper and buying honey is one of the easiest and most delicious ways to help save our bees. Here at Hexton we have a wide range of honey that to suit every taste, and we then use the by-products of the hives to create a wide range of beeswax products so there is no waste.
We also use no antibiotics in our hives so you can rest assured that your products are natural. Another benefit from buying local is that the products are usually made from the local flora and as a result may help with seasonal allergies!
Honey bees live in hives (or colonies), and within the hive there are three types of bees:
Queen: One queen runs the whole hive. Her job is to lay the eggs that will create the next generation of bees. The queen also produces chemicals that guide the behaviour of the other bees.
Workers: These are all female and their roles are to forage for pollen and nectar, build and protect the hive, clean, and circulate the air by beating their wings, and produce Royal Jelly to feed the Queen. If you see a bee flying outside the hive, it is usually a Worker bee.
Drones: These are the male bees, and their sole purpose is to mate with the new queen! During the spring and summer. There could be a few hundred drones living in the hive, but come winter they are unceremoniously kicked out!
As well as producing delicious honey they also produce honey as food stores for the hive during winter. Luckily for us, these efficient little workers produce 2-3 time more honey than they need for themselves, so we get to benefit from this and enjoy their tasty treat, too!
Honey bees are fab flyers. They fly at a speed of around 25km per hour and beat their wings 200 times per second!
Each bee has around 170 odorant receptors – which means they can use this sense of smell to not only communicate within the hive but can also recognise different types of flowers when they are out looking for food and pollen.
The average worker bee lives for just five to six weeks and during this time, she’ll produce around a twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. In fact, a hive of bees will fly 90,000 miles, the equivale of three orbits around the earth to collect 1kg of honey. No wonder we hear the term of busy bees.
In contrast, the Queen can live up to five years. Her busiest time is in the summer months when she can lay up to 2,500 eggs a day! Her primary diet is Royal Jelly that is produced by her loyal worker bees.
Honey bees are also brilliant dancers! They have a ‘waggle dance’ which means that when the Worker bee returns to the hive, it moves in a figure-of-eight and waggles its body to indicate the direction of the food source.
On one flight from the hive to collect honey, a honey bee will visit between 50-100 flowers!
Honey is the only food that contains all the substances that are needed to sustain life – including water. So, make sure there is always a full jar of honey in the pantry!
If a hive is healthy and the colony has too many bees, the hive will split in half with one half remaining and the other half off on their travels to find a new home. This is a swarm, and although they can seem scary, bees are not usually aggressive during this time, and it often dissipates within an hour. Allow them to travel safely and they will not harm you - it’s actually really fascinating to watch them.
Some more fun facts about bees
- Bees have 5 eyes
- Bees are insects, so they have 6 legs
- Losing its stinger will cause a bee to die
- Bees have been here about 30 million years!
- Bees carry pollen on their hind legs in a pollen basket or corbicula
- An average beehive can hold around 50,000 bees