Honey bees

Tuesday 4 June 2013, 16:49

Springwatch Guest Blog Springwatch Guest Blog

Guest blogger: Dr David Aston, British Beekeepers Association

Early May started full of promise with our honey bees flying well in the warmer weather and an increasing number and species of bumblebees, solitary bees, hoverflies and butterflies as well as the bee fly seen in our garden in East Yorkshire.

Honey bee on a grape hyacinth Honey bee on a grape hyacinth by H Hayday

Then the weather changed. Beekeepers can help their honey bees by ensuring they have sufficient food to tide them over the poor weather but wild bees as not so fortunate and run the risk of dying through starvation. So we have been regularly checking our bees to make sure they have sufficient food (sugars and protein) to rear the increasing number of young bees the colonies are now producing.

Honey bee on apple blossom Honey bee on apple blossom, copyright BBKA

Hopefully the weather will improve and all the pollinating insects will be able to benefit from the fruit blossom and the spring flowers we have in our garden. In the surrounding farmland the fields of oilseed rape are in full flower and are a hugely important forage source for all pollinating insects.

beehives and oilseed rape Beehives and oilseed rape, copyright BBKA

May is usually the time for the natural process of swarming to occur and the confinement of honey bees in their hives during cold and wet weather can trigger preparations for swarming so that when the weather improves they swarm. In readiness we are making sure we have the equipment ready to deal with the swarming whether by catching and hiving them or carrying out a beekeeping manipulation technique called artificial swarming.

The British Beekepers Association website has more information about keeping bees, including what to do if you have a swarm.


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    Comment number 5.

    Noted Hawthorn bushes in bloom but no Hawthorn fly flying about have noticed there are very few about over the years.As a flyfisherman the hawthorn is the firt sign we use for dryfishing making fly patterns to fish on top off the water to imetate them with there long dangly legs.Trout love them when they are blowen on to the water.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Today I saw a huge swarm of honey bees that flew over my house (I'd estimate around 10,000 to 100,000). The noise they made was deafening. It was like nothing I have heard or seen before. Why were they bee-having like this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Sorry that David hasn't been able to answer the 2 comments re bees due to pressure of work. I will attempt to do so. The bees in the bird box are almost certainly Tree Bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum). This is typical behaviour. The bees hovering around outside are males waiting for the virgin queens to appear on their mating flight. See this link http://bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/identification/common-bumblebees/ and scroll down.

    Again the swarming bees are almost certainly honey bees and this is typical behaviour at this time of the year. Whilst beekeepers try to prevent swarming they aren't always successful. Swarming is the natural way for honey bees to increase their population by creating new colonies. They will normally leave their hive and find a comfy branch to gather around. They then send out their scouts to try and find a good place to start a new nest. Sometimes this can take a while and the first place they settle isn't quite as good as first thought so they find somewhere else while waiting for the scouts to do their job.

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    Comment number 8.

    I've been fascinated by 'bee cam'. Are the little buzzes that the bees make, a form of communication? I was under the impression that the buzzing noise they made when flying was down to breathing, but could they also be using that method to pass messages to each other?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I have a question about bees and not sure if you could help.... I live in Maidstone in Kent and have a colony of what I believe might be short haired bees living in my bird box. How would I be able to find out of thats what they are as I believe they have been reintroduced to kent last year? Thank you.


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