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Bumblebees, or as the Victorian’s called them ‘Humble bees’, are similar to wasps in that only the queen hibernates and survives the winter. In the spring the queen bumblebee seeks an old mouse- or vole- hole and builds within it a nest of leaves and moss. She constructs nodular wax cells and incubates her young as a bird would. As her first offspring hatch and begin to fly the queen increasingly stays within the hive to produce young. Bumblebees do make a small amount of honey and store it in one special cup like cell. There is no more than a tablespoon at any time. The typical maximum population of a bumblebee colony is tiny, compared to the honey bee, being between 50 and
In any hive there are three types of honey bee: a single queen; thousands of female worker bees and, in the summer, hundreds of male drones. The drone bee does no work and in the early autumn they are evicted by the workers and die.
It is amazing to see how colonies of bees stick together, despite the vast distances each worker must travel in order to serve the hive. It is now known that bees use the position of the sun to help them know where they are and where they need to go back to; there is now some evidence of sensitivity to the earth’s magnetic field too. It is worth saying too that bees’ eyes are sensitive to polarized light which penetrates through even thick cloud so they are able to ‘see’ the sun, even when the weather is poor.
It is often asked how – or if – bees are awake or asleep. Bees do not sleep – but they do remain motionless to preserve vital energy for the next day of foraging. During the day, and out on their travels, bees eyes can detect a wide array of colour. Their eyes are sensitive more to the blue end of the spectrum and into ultra violet. Flowers reflect large amounts of ultra violet light and to a bee will be very bright. Curiously, when it comes to red, bees are totally blind.
The distance each bee flies in its life is astonishing. It is possible for bees to fly as far as 5 miles for food, however an average distance would be less than a mile from the hive. A strong colony therefore flies the equivalent distance from Earth to the Moon everyday.
The normal top speed of a worker would be about 15-20mph (21-28km/h) when flying to a food source and about 12mph (17km/h) when returning with nectar, pollen, propolis (resin collected from tree buds) or water.
There are a number of diseases affecting bees, some more serious than others. They are not infectious to humans but dangerous for the bee. Certain bee diseases are even notifiable to the Government.
The most serious are AFB (American Foul Brood) and EFB (European Foul Brood), which affect the larva in the hive. These are normally treated by destroying the colony by burning it. If left alone, the disease can spread throughout out the whole apiary and affect surrounding beekeepers. Spores from AFB can remain dormant for over 50 years in old beekeeping equipment and cause problems decades later.
The most alarming threat to honey bees in the UK right now is the potential arrival to Mainland Britain of Asian Hornet. Please see here to learn how to help beekeepers by being aware of them and keeping an eye out.
Honey bees mix plant pollen with water to form a type of bread that is fed to the growing larvae. It provides a rich source of protein and fat whilst honey provides energy (carbohydrate). Bees collect about 20kg of pollen every year - that’s 1 million pollen loads at 20mg per trip!
We need people to plant more flowers wherever they live – the more flowers, the more food (forage) for the honey bees. Greater food sources enable honey bees to be much stronger in the face of disease. You can find a comprehensive guide to planting here which tells you which pollen will be available when the bees need it throughout the year.
A bee only stings under two conditions. To protect the colony or when frightened. When a bee stings, barbs in the lance of the sting cause it to firmly stick into the victim pulling out the venom sacs and glands when the bee is shaken off. The venom sac muscles continue to pump after these organs have been torn from the dying bee.
Only the female workers and the queen can sting, the queen having a smooth sting which she uses to kill other queens, while surviving herself.
Bees use the position of the sun to navigate and there is evidence of their sensitivity to the earth’s magnetic field. Also bees' eyes are sensitive to polarized light, which penetrates through even thick cloud, so bees are able to ‘see’ the sun in poor weather.
As well as two compound eyes on either side of its head the bee has three ‘ocelli’ on top of its head. The ocelli (collective noun for all 3 eyes) can detect the transition from darkness to light. If the horizon moves up it means the bee is flying down so it can rotate the angle of its wings to compensate. In this way the bee can make sure it’s flying along a flat plain to achieve a greater distance over a shorter space of time.
Yes, bees' eyes are sensitive more to the blue end of the light spectrum and into ultraviolet. Flowers reflect large amounts of ultraviolet light and will appear very bright to a bee. Bees are totally red blind.
A honey bee will not fly much higher than the height of any obstacle in its path. The bee will learn to fly straight out from its colony at high speed and will be most surprised if it strikes an new obstacle, such as you standing in the way. It may lash out and you will receive a sting, so be careful when walking close to the front of a busy beehive.
Mating drones will fly up to 30 metres above ground to find a queen, and can go much higher if warm rising thermal air carries them.
The normal top speed of a worker would be about 15-20 mph (21-28 km/h), when flying to a food source, and about 12 mph (17 km/h), when returning laden down with nectar, pollen, propolis or water.
No, bees overwinter as a strong colony clustered together, using their bodies to generate heat. This cluster is about the size of a football, with bees taking turns to be on the cold outside.
Honey Show Rules within
If Honey Shows are to run smoothly without disputes and protests then the Show Secretary must provide both exhibitors and the judge with a clear set of Rules and Regulations. The BBKA Advisory Leaflet No 22, titled Show Rules (Revised 2016) is a good starting point
The BBKA Leaflet is all-embracing and for a Local Honey Show perhaps too comprehensive. However, by making reference to it in the Show Schedule with a phrase such as “BBKA Show Rules (2016) apply unless amended by the following:” will provide most of the information for the exhibitors to prepare their exhibits. The following suggested clauses for Show Schedules which are relevant to the efficient administration of the show and handling of the exhibits. These clauses should be tailored to meet individual show requirements. In addition, there will be a need to advise exhibitors of changes to the BBKA Rules to properly define what is ‘custom and practice’ at the local show and to be more specific on the presentation of exhibits in certain classes.
Some Suggested Clauses for Show Schedules:-
1) This Show is held in accordance with the Show Rules (2016) of the British Beekeeping Association and Exhibitors are bound by them.
2) Entries must be made on the form provided with the appropriate fees and reach the Entries Secretary on or before ………..
3) The entry fee per class is ………..
4) In Shows which charge admission fees
Exhibitors paying …….in entry fees will be sent a free Admission Pass. (Each entry in a Gift Class will be regarded as being equivalent to ……… for this purpose.
5) Acknowledgement of entries will not be made, but show labels, passes etc. will be sent to the Exhibitor at least 7 days prior to the show.
6) Delivery and staging.
All exhibits must be delivered to the Show by…………on……….
Exhibits sent via third party must be sent to arrive by the stated date/time, and arrangements made for their collection at the end of the Show.
Unless otherwise stated, all exhibits will be staged by Committee Members or Stewards.
7) Judging will commence at ……… on………
8) No exhibit or any part thereof shall be removed until………on the final day of the Show and only when authorised to by a member of the Show Executive.
9) Lighting or power points will be available to exhibitors in class(es)…………provided notice has been given on the entry form.
10) No honey may be sold or otherwise displayed without permission of the shoe authorities.
11) For cups and special prizes, points will be awarded as follows:-
First: 6 Second: 5 Third: 4 Reserve, Fourth or VHC: 3 HC: 2 C: 1
12) The show will be open to the public and exhibitors at ………
13) Challenge cups and Trophies won the previous year should be cleaned and delivered by hand to the Show Executive on …………
14) In many shows Novice Classes are introduced to encourage newcomers to showing to exhibit. If the term ‘Novice’ is not defined in the show rules Exhibitors will be unsure if they are eligible to enter.
“A Novice is an Exhibitor who has never won a First prize or trophy at any Honey show.”
“A Novice is an Exhibitor who has never won a First prize at a local association/branch members show”
“A Novice is an Exhibitor who has never won a First prize at a County Honey Show”
“A Novice is an Exhibitor who has not won more than three First Prizes at any Honey show”
“A Novice is an Exhibitor who has not won more than three prize cards (1st 2nd or 3rd ) for honey/beeswax in open classes at a County Honey show”
Every eventuality cannot be covered, but here are a few aspects for the Show Secretary to consider:
Labels The purpose of the label is to give a coded identity to an exhibit. The BBKA Rules are quite specific in where the label is to be placed on the various classes and, in particular, for jars a dimension of 2cm from the base of the jar to the bottom edge of the label. Apart from the fact that the judge needs an unimpeded view across the inside bottom of the jar the dimension is not critical. However, for presentation reasons labels at the same height on the jars create an orderly and efficient impression to the public.
Jars The different types of the jar and lids in the BBKA Rules are to cover both the jar classes and the display and commercial classes. It is recommended that where a show only has jar classes the schedule specifies what is required with a form of words as follows:
“Extracted honey must be exhibited in clear 454g(1lb) squat glass jars with gold lacquered screw or twist off lids with flowed-in plastic seals. Where a class requires more than one item of the same type, the jars, lids and their contents must be matching in all respects.”
Sections Square sections (approximate weight 454g(1lb)) are a rarity and round sections (approximate weight 227g(8oz)) are becoming more common, if both types are to be allowed in the same class then this should be stated but a weight requirement should not be given.
Cut Comb Honey It is usual for the schedule to call for a container (or two containers) of cut comb and then define the weight. The most common size of container in use is 227gm(8oz)and therefore what would be expected from the exhibitor is:
“Container(s) filled with cut comb to satisfy a minimum gross weight of 227gm(8oz)”.
Some shows ask for a higher weight which is unreasonable in an 8oz container. If the exhibitor has very thick unwired comb which would meet the higher weight then the underside of the lid could rest on the cappings and these may become detached when the lid is removed. On the other hand, to meet the higher weight using a standard comb thickness, there will be a temptation to use cut comb which is undrained.
Wax The BBKA rules specify wax blocks to be displayed in a plastic bag or a show case. Although the plastic bag introduces anonymity, a show case will keep out fingernails from damaging the surface! One label must be affixed to the wax top visible surface and a duplicate on the show case lid. It is usual to give a weight requirement for the beeswax block and there should also be a corresponding minimum thickness requirement:-
”One beeswax block minimum weight 454g(1lb)and at least 25mm thick”. Other possibilities would be:-e.g.“340g(12oz) and at least 15mm thick” or “- 227g(8oz) and at least 10mm thick”. Alternatively the weight requirement could be as a band, e.g. 400-500g, 325-375g and 200-250g respectively.
Cakes and Confectionery. If a recipe has not been given in the Schedule then the Class instructions should ask the exhibitor to provide one. The judge needs to know the honey content and also if sugar is used in the recipe as this makes an easier cake to produce.
Photographic Classes The BBKA Rules do not cover these classes, it is advisable to put something in the schedule to stop the same exhibit being used each year and to state how the exhibits are to be mounted to provide them with protection and for presentational reasons.
A form of words could be:
“All exhibits must have been taken, but not necessarily processed, by the exhibitor. The subject should be connected with beekeeping.
Transparencies must fit in a 50mm x 50mm(2in x 2in) standard mount, glass mounts recommended.
Colour or black/white prints/images must be mounted on card of any colour, maximum size of mount 250mm x200mm(10in x 8in). A title is to be positioned centrally below the print.
Transparencies and prints previously entered at _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Honey Show, whether prize winners or not, may not be entered in the same class.”
1. Please use the Asian Hornet Watch app on your phone to send a picture and a location via GPS in the app straight to the non-native species secretariat and National Bee Unit.
2. If you cannot download the Asian Hornet Watch app, please use this online recording form
3. As a last resort, you send a picture and email with details of where you saw the Asian hornet with your contact details to [email protected]
If it is safe to do so, you can send in a sample to the National Bee Unit for examination to confirm identity (please note the specimen must be dead before sending it in). However, do not under any circumstances disturb or provoke an active hornets’ nest. For more information visit the Non Native Species Secretariat website.
You may be wondering how Jersey beekeepers have worked out the distance they are from an Asian Hornet's nest by timing how long it takes a hornet to fly from bait to nest and back? Well it all goes back to elementary mathematics.....
Speed is a measure of how quickly an object moves from one place to another. It is equal to the distance traveled divided by the time. It is possible to find any of these three values using the other two.
Peter Kennedy, Research Fellow at the University of Exeter has provided a very helpful explanation of how they did it on Jersey:
John de Carteret on Jersey observed from a number of nest locations that when one looks back at ta he times quoted for individual foraging hornets at various bain stations ( i.e. the time between when an individual departs and then returns) that there was a time/distance correlation. His observation, that proved a useful rule of thumb, was that each minute of a flight interval equates to approximately 100 metres between bait station and nest. So a 3 minute interval between leaving a bait station and returning translates to an approximate distance of 300m to the hornet nest; a 5 minute interval translates to approx. 500m and so on. This figure needs to allow +/- 10% and it is less effective over shorter distances (presumably as time at nest accounts for a larger proportion of error) but it proved a useful rule of thumb in Jersey.
Flipping this rule of thumb on its head, a foraging hornet, leaving a bait station, has to travel to the nest and back again within the interval. Therefore, it would fly 2x500m in an interval of 5 minutes. If we ignore the time spent at the nest for now as an unknown, the hornet would have needed to fly 1000m in 5 minutes or 200m per minute, or 3.3m per second ( +/- 10%). Taking into account it would have spent some time at the nest , then the flight speed would have to be greater than 3.3m per second.
It may be worth pointing this figures is based on those individuals with the shortest time intervals who were presumed to fly directly between bait station and nest rather than getting side-tracked into other foraging activities en route. This then fits nicely with the second estimate of flight speed determined by Bob Hogge and team suspended over a hornets nest high up in a tree and timing the interval between a marked hornet leaving a bait station and being observed back at the nest, i.e. approximately 3.5m per second.
It also fits nicely with my own estimates of flight speed of free-flying hornets carrying radio-tags over the relatively short distances ( 12-72m) I was able to observe them directly. Flight speed averaged 3m per sec( 2.5-4.2m per sec)
You can see details of the second Jersey estimation of speed below:
At the end of August, Jersey Beekeepers carried out another test of speed of flight. Using 3 bait stations with line of sight to a known nest and at a known distance. The length of absence from the bait of marked individual hornets was recorded at each site and, using a hoist with beekeepers suspended above the nest, the time at the nest also.
This produced a calculation of the flight speed at approximately 3.5 metres per second.
Bob Hogge, who you can see below being attacked by hornets from that nest, said:
"Interestingly, the time individuals spent on the nest seemed to be constant at approximately 50 seconds, but this is anomalous with observations from other nests so needs more work as do all the other metrics."
It's been noticed that hornets do not necessarily use exactly the same path to and from a bait station. In her blog about Hunting Asian Hornets on Jersey, Torbay beekeeper Judith Norman, noted the following habits of the Asian Hornet (you can read the full blog here) :
"In an open area, they may well fly along a hedge line; in town they may follow open streets! Some may fly straight through a line of trees but others may go all the way around the line of trees. It is easy to see one fly if it has open sky as a background, but, as soon as it passes in front of a tree, for instance, it is no longer visible.
"Having several people with radios cuts down enormously on the time and leg work. If the person at the bait station gives a shout as the insect takes off, the others further down may just manage to get a glimpse of it as it rounds a corner and one can then decide where to place the next bait station in the bid to get closer to the nest."
In France the Association Action Anti Frelon Asiatique ( Association Action against Asian Hornets) has identified several ways to tell a male from a female AH.
There is a difference in size - 2.3 cm for the males on the left and also they are pointing out the two yellow dots on the underneath side of the abdomen which males have and females do not.
Female antenna are straight but males are curved. 10 rings on the antenna of a female, 11 rings if it is a male.
Females have a sting, males do not.
Jersey beekeepers who have dissected many of the 40 or so nests they have found say the only way of telling a Queen from a worker is by the width of the thorax.
DEFRA is recommending monitoring traps in all areas of the Country even where there is no Asian hornet incursion known of at present.
Once an Asian hornet has been positively identified in an area then kill traps should be used.
This is in the expectation that if Asian hornets are in the area then they will be trapped and identified.
The by-catch in these traps will be small compared to the damage caused by the Asian hornets if the nests are not found.
Any suspected Asian Hornets should be photographed and the pictures sent to [email protected]
Download the full monitoring trap PDF here