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Mark here again, Today I'm going to explain about how a colony works.

When you first look into a hive you will see hundreds of bee's, apparently acting random. However, while individual bees do spend a lot of time "resting", they are in fact all working together to ensure the survival of the colony,As bee's can not survive for long on their own. It is the combined efforts of the bee's which enables the colony to function successfully.

You will see many frames of bee's which are on a basic wax structure on which the colony draw out to use to store food and produce new bee's. if there are larger spaces within the colony bee's will start to make their own wax to fill the space. To do this bees secrete wax from their glands on the underside of the bee's abdomen. Tiny scales produced are passed forward to the jaws, where they are manipulated and softened.

Each Colony has only one "Queen" which is the only bee able too lay fertilised eggs. Sometimes female worker bee's can lay eggs, but these are unfertile. Bee genetics are complicated. Fertile eggs are laid and hatch into female worker bee's  and unfertile eggs hatch to make male bee's otherwise known ad "Drones". A Queen can live for Four to Five Years. Her task Within the colony is to keep the colony alive by producing enough Fertilised eggs to keep the colony growing. The Queen produces a special Pheromone that is passed to all the bee's within the colony.

For the Queen to be able to fulfil her role she must mate with the male bee's "drones". She may Mate with up to twenty drones in one mating flight, The queen will only ever do one mating flight in her life time. The Queen stores the sperm within the abdomen.

Drones are none fertilised eggs. There are slightly bigger than a normal female worker and are much more burly. The males Do not collect pollen, neither do they collect nectar. The Main role of the Drone is to Mate with a virgin Queen. Once they have mated The drone will die.

The worker bee "female bee" is what makes the majority of the colony up. They are responsible for most of the tasks needed to be done to make the colony survive. As soon as the worker bee hatches they start to complete certain tasks around the hive. E.g.  House bee, Nurse bee, forager, under taker and guard bee. The House bee starts by cleaning the cells ready for the Queen to lay a new egg into to ensure the reproduction of the colony is ongoing. She will then move on to feeding the larvae. Then when the worker bee is a little older she will feed and tend to the Queen.  As she becomes more experienced she will then start receiving nectar and pollen from foraging bee's and storing this. After about three weeks she will become experienced enough to become a forager. Before starting this role they may be required to cover guard duty on the entrance of the hive. Guide duty involves protecting the hive from pests such as wasps and other creatures that may want to steal their honey.

Foraging is to collect pollen and nectar for the colony to survive and expand. Nectar provides the colony with a carbohydrate for the colony. This is stored within the thorax of the bee. Foragers will also collect pollen and store this in the little pockets within their back legs. This is a protein for the colony and is used to feed young bee's. The Colony also need's water for their survival. The Forager will also collect Propolis which is a sticky substance which is brought back to the hive and used to fill any gaps within the hive to help regulate the temperature within the hive.

All these duties take a great strain on the worker bee and therefore makes the worker bee die at a young age. During the summer bee's life span is that of only a few weeks. During the winter due to lack of flying worker bee's can last up to 6 Months. This helps the survival on colonies during the winter months.

I hope this has helped you learn something new about our amazing honey bee's and I will See you again soon.

Hi My Name is Mark Bolan and this is my story of the first year of beekeeping.

I first started by watching documentaries on Beekeeping and became fascinated at the creatures way of life and how each honey bee has a different role to play within the hive. Being intrigued I watched more and more, until I plucked up the courage to put a bee suit on and enter a hive. It was a scary process considering I was petrified of anything that could flay faster than I could run and could potentially harm me.

So the day come I was going to look into a hive for the very first time. I put a bee suit on, and my wellies, insuring I tucked my suit into my socks before putting my wellies on, and my gloves were tucked under the arms of my suit. Paranoid that somewhere id left something undone and that a bee would get in. I went straight in for the hive, trying to act brave, I did some times jump but knowing I could of upset them more, I would just walk away to compose myself, and then slowly move back towards the hive when I felt comfortable to do so.

This then became a weekly occurrence, each week my confidence grew and grew, Until a month or so had pasted and they no longer bothered me. Learning about a new habitat,different from the world we live in and the importance of how they actually are the leader behind the human race, and how we could not possibly survive without the honey bee, to pollinate our flowers and crops.

The first part of the season is swarm season, this is when a colony is reproducing and is naturally going to divide and therefore creating a new colony. To do this I had to learn all about how bee's reproduce. it became more interesting as weeks went by. Learning about how to requeen and what the bee's thought process was depending on what type of queen cell they had made. Having to wait 16 days eagerly holding our breathe with anticipation, to see if we had a new viable queen. Then once she emerges finding her beneath the worker bee's. Then it was a case of awaiting her to make her maiden flight.

Not long after I plucked up the courage to lead my first ever inspection. Running through a check list in my head ensuring I had everything I needed. Smoker? check, Hive tool?  check , bucket of water? check, frame holder? check. I was ready. Nervously taking off the hive roof, and the crown board, making my way to the first super box. Checking they had enough food, I was very inquisitive and probably asking many questions. Slowly making my way to the base of the hive one box at a time. Once I got down to the brood box, you have to be eagerly watching for the queen. Checking each frame for eggs, "curly pearlies" , capped brood. Ensuring that any play cups were destroyed to prevent any further swarming. As the weeks went by and the hives were growing and so I started to learn how to build a hive and make the foundation frames.

As I was picking up the swing of things, I was then introduced to Bee Base, this is where you keep a record of how your hives are doing and any updates from the bee inspector would be on there. I was then introduced to the types of diseases, that would harm or potentially wipe out a whole colony. The Best Advice I was given was " if you know what a healthy colony looks like then you will notice when something is wrong" so baring that in mind, I decided to visit a local beekeeping group; I seen how they had their Apiary Set up and did an inspection with them in their hive, Straight away I spotted there  was something wrong with their colony, and on closer inspection realised it was chalk brood. Having notice I told the Head beekeeper there about this and asked what treatment we should use to treat it. He replied it would be ok and was nothing serious, at the end of the club, I went home and reflected on what I had seen. I decided I wouldn't return to the group as it had bad practices when it came to hive inspections, and did not want to pick these habits up.

So with the support of the Beekeepers I had been working with I decided to get my own colony. Overflowing with enthusiasm and pride, I brought my first precious colony to their new home, driving home from the bee inspectors which a 6 frame nuc box, over flowing with bees. Hearing the hum from the flapping of their wings. So, from having one colony, I had two. Oh, I didn’t mention the Queens have a name, not my doing, but my partners. Then 2 hives became four. We continued with our weekly inspections and our colony's were doing good. We learnt a lot throughout the year and made some mistakes too but that's how we learn don't you think?

Now coming to the end of the year we harvest the honey, this is a sticky but exciting process to go through. It was then now time to starting thinking about the winter ahead. As we had two large hives and 2 small hives, we decided that to ensure they survive through winter, we would merge the two small hives, so this is what we did, it was tricky at first as we kept them separated for a while so they could get used to being mixed. But when we unsealed them, the bee's had flown back to where their old hive was. So we had to think and act fast to ensure the bee's didn't die from exposure. In the End they did finally merge and all was good, but not knowing what the bee's are thinking or what they were planning to do, all we could do was try and wait to see what happens, you can read all the books you want and watch as many videos as you can but they can never possibly prepare you for what might happen.

So as winter approached and it was time to feed the bee's their sugar syrup and patty, ensuing the hive doors were smaller and the mouse guards were in place, it was time to let the bee's have their well earned break. Hoping that they will survive the harsh winter the critics say is heading our way.

Over all the first year for me has been a very quick and educational one to say the least. I know I still have more to learn about and I probably wont be able to learn everything. But I Have met some very good beekeepers and some who I know will be their to support me as and when I need them, or to just call them and seek advice when needed. The local beekeepers are a close nit group, who just love to look after the bee's as if they were like our family. My highlight of my year would probably be, having the opportunity to watch my colonies grow and produce and knowing I'm making a difference to not only to the community but to also to society. My lowlight of the year is probably being stung, but hey it doesn't hurt too much and after a bit of cream and a tablet, it was gone. I think it was just the knowing that at some point you will get stung and just waiting and waiting till it happens. But it happened and I got over it.

Well I hope you liked my little story of my first year and here's to hoping to many more good and memorable years to come. if you would like to tell us about your first year or just share some information with us. Please get in touch through our contact us page. Let all help to help each other.

Here at BeeEducated its all abut the learning, and we are always looking for newbee's and long standing beekeepers to join us, so become a member today and get your Free Beekeeper training.

 

BeeEducated is on track for starting on 3rd January 2016 and we are inviting people to register their interest so that we can contact them nearer to the time. The free training is available to anyone who is willing to become a member, buy their own suit and commit the looking after a colony of bees as part of a team.

We are currently in the process of getting a fence that will section off the Apiary from the paddock and once this is in place, we will erect the greenhouses and move the hives onto the site.

We have loads of ideas of ways to raise funds for the group and welcome ideas from members. As this is our first year in running the course, we are hoping that we can rise funds to get suits and hive equipment so that we can have as many people participate as possible. The more hives we have the more people that can do the practice training.

We are always looking for support from local businesses to help with the cost a new hives at the sanctuary. Companies and individuals who sponsor a hive will receive updates on the hives progress along with free honey at the end of the year. As a guide on the cost of a hive, a Cedar hive with frames and queen excluder is around £180 and a 5 frame colony of bees is also around £180.

As bees naturally swarm to reproduce, in a good season, we can get more colonies but need hives to put them in.