Sunday 15 September 2013

What do we use beeswax for?

Over the years there have been millions of uses for beeswax.

The most important use for beeswax as a beekeeper is of course to give the honeycomb back to the bees so that they can re-fill it with honey.  It 'costs' the bees to recreate the honeycomb, so giving it back means that they can collect more honey next season. The bees will re-use honeycomb, but they will not take flakes or pieces of wax and re-use them, so once the wax is damaged, or removed from the honeycomb, it can be recycled into something else.  The list below is just some of these uses.

How do bees make honeycomb?

Bees build their home out of wax (beeswax!).  Unlike wasps, who collect the material to make their home, bees create the wax themselves.  Underneath the worker bee abdomen there are 4 pairs of glands.  The bee body, like all insects is made of a hard material.  So that the bee can flex its body, this ‘exoskeleton’ is made up of a number of hard overlapping plates, joined by flexible membranes.  The wax glands are hidden in the overlapping area between two of these plates, so that the wax appears as a small flake between the plates.

Friday 31 May 2013

Putting a swarm into their new hive

Today we were called by a neighbour who had seen a swarm of bees passing over their house and settling in a tree in a nearby garden.  The swarm was several meters high from the ground but we were able to capture it with our home made swarm bag, which looks like a pillow case on a stick!

We got the swarm into a box, and took it to the National Trust apiary at Hanbury Hall.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Making 'house signs' so bees can find their own hive

Everyone knows that foraging honey bees can find their way back to their home and that ‘guard’ bees will stop any ‘foreign’ bees from coming into their hive. 

Well, actually, this is not quite true.  In the wild, colonies of bees would set up home with their hives well separated from each other.   However, for the convenience of the beekeeper, we tend to put our beehives within a few feet of each other.  Also, the guard bees are quite practical.  If a worker bee turns up at the doorstep with a full load of nectar, they will generally just let it in ... well, why not!

This all tends to create a bit of a problem for the beekeeper.  If the bees cannot tell the difference between the hives, then they tend to just go to the nearest one!

Saturday 19 January 2013

Lady Georgina Vernon, Hanbury Hall beekeeper.

I keep my bees at Hanbury Hall in the village of Hanbury in Worcestershire ( which is now owned by the National Trust.  When it was still in private hands it was owned by the Vernon family (  Lady Georgina Vernon (1840 - 1928) was one of the family who lived at the property who was reputed to be a beekeeper.

Lady Georgina Vernon (c) National Trust

Out of interest, as the current beekeeper, I did some investigation to find out about Lady Georgina's involvement with beekeeping and any mention of Hanbury and beekeeping, the rest of this post shows my findings.