World Bee Day is May 20th – its significance and how you can help the bees

World Bee Day is May 20th – its significance and how you can help the bees

If you have not heard about the challenges facing bees and other pollinator insects, you must be living under a rock. Intensive use of land by the fast expanding human population, how we farm or even look after our garden has placed significant pressure on the bee population. That is why some clever people created World Bee Day.  It is a good idea to set aside one day, to reflect on bees, and the day is 20th of May every year.

So, what are the things you can do on World Bee Day to remember and take action that can help these lovely creatures?

Create awareness by sending a FREE World Bee Day eCard

Some of the human activities that are negatively impacting the bees are born of ignorance rather than deliberate lack of care for the bees. So, why not send a FREE Happy Bee Day eCard to your friends and family, to help raise awareness about bees. Charity eCard website, Hope Spring is offering free save the bees eCards on their website. Just visit the free ecards section of their website, use the provided token to send a free Happy Bee Day eCard.

Improve your knowledge of the challenges facing the bees

Bees are beset by the same environmental challenges as other species, including habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation; non-native species and diseases; pollution, including pesticides; and climate change.

Here in the UK, Changes in land use, including insensitive urban development and intensive farming, have caused great losses and fragmentation of pollinator-friendly habitats. This leads to bees losing the diverse and nutritional food sources required for their healthy diet.

It’s important that bees have enough flowers to forage – and safe places to use for nesting, among vegetation, the soil and hedges. But since World War II, we have lost about 98% of our wildflower meadows, leaving the bees with little natural habitat.

Climate change is also having an impact. The shift in temperatures and seasons affects when insects are active and when food is available, which may no longer coincide. New pests and diseases can also strike as the climate changes, devastating bee colonies which have little or no resistance. Bees feel the effects of climate change more greatly than those of habitat disturbance. A recent research found that the abundance and diversity of bee populations are heavily determined by weather conditions. During the study, higher temperatures and more intense rainfall during Winter and Spring months were associated with a lower abundance of wild bees. It is undeniable that climate change poses a huge threat to the wild bee population, and hence our global food supply.

The use of pesticides has also been identified as one of the causes of decline in bee population. 

A study by Dr Richard Gill of Imperial College London, shows how factors associated with land use change affects pollinating insects. He says, ‘They target what are known as nicotinic acetylcholinesterase receptors. These are similar receptors to those that nicotine binds to in humans.’

‘Effectively, this information instructs the insect on how to move, think and learn. Normally, a second molecule will then come and break down the substance that is stimulating the nerve.’

With neonicotinoids, however, this is where the problems arise. The molecule of neonicotinoid has high affinity to the receptor, meaning that it is very difficult to break down.

‘Basically, it causes the insects to become hyperactive. Excess stimulation and the insect has a seizure, a bit like an epileptic fit,’ says Richard.

Save the bees

About two-thirds of the crop plants that feed the world rely on pollination by insects or other animals to produce healthy fruits and seeds for human consumption. Pollination benefits human nutrition – enabling not only the production of an abundance of fruits, nuts and seeds, but also more variety and better quality. 

Below are some of the things you and I can do to help curb the alarming decline in bee population:

  • Plant native wildflowers 
  • Keep part or all of your garden untidy, to make more room for wildlife
  • Adopt a beehive
  • Support smaller, local, organic farms
  • Create awareness by sending bee ecards to your friends and colleagues
  • Support current bills and other pollinator initiatives
Honeybee Swarm Collection – South Herefordshire

Honeybee Swarm Collection – South Herefordshire

Found a swarm of bees on your property and would like it removed? We may be able to help. If you have a beekeeper near you, the chances of finding a swarm of bees clumped on a tree in your garden,  on the roof of your house or even on your windows pane is very high.  

If you find such transient visitors on your property in South Herefordshire, please contact us. We may be able to help you move them to a good home. 


Swarm in May is worth a load of hay

Swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly.

This 17th century beekeeper saying shows how valuable a swarm of bees is to a beekeeper, depending on the time during the swarming season. These days, depending on the location of the apiary, swarming starts as early as April. It can last till as late as August.


What is swarming?

Swarming occurs when the space available in a hive for a colony of bees is getting too small for the population. The queen and thousands of worker bees “swarm”. The swarming usually happens in two stages. 

The bees that are swarming would have identified a new hive to move to. At the date and time they decide to swarm, the queen and all the workers she is taking with her will come out of the hive, cluster on a tree, wall or any other item. When they are ready, they all “swarm” to their new home. 

If you saw a swarm of bees on a tree in your front garden. If you leave them alone, they will actually leave eventually. The transit state of the swarming process is when honeybees are most docile. They rarely even sting when they are swarming.



Swarming or related sites and pages

  • Herefordshire beekeepers swarm collectors page. You may find beekeepers who are happy to collect swarms in other parts of Herefordshire.
  • Honeybees or bumblebees? If you are not sure whether the bees on your property are honey bees or bumble bees. You may find more information about bumblebees here:
Honey Bees Facts – A Definitive Compilation

Honey Bees Facts – A Definitive Compilation

Honey bees are one of the most remarkable insects on the planet, there is no doubt about that. They punch well above their weight, when you compare what they are capable of, with other insects. The way their colony is organised, how each member of the hive plays a small role, to help a colony of about 50,000 bees to function seamlessly led to a bee colony being designated as a superorganism by scientists. 

So what exactly is a worker honey bee, a queen honey bee, is there a king honey bee? Find answers to these questions and much more in this comprehensive and definitive honey bees facts compilation. 

Honey Bee Facts for Children

  • Do honey bees sleep and for how long?  – It is difficult to say definitively whether bees sleep or not. A researcher called Walter Kaiser, in 1993 published his findings into whether bees do sleep. His conclusion was that bees do sleep.  Others researchers/scientists argue that bees do not sleep, they merely stay motionless to preserve energy during the night.
  • How many colours can a honey bee see? –  Honey bees’ vision is better tuned to the blue end of the light spectrum and  ultra violet. This helps bees to see flowers, their main source of nectar and pollen. Flowers reflect a lot of ultraviolet light. Bees do not see the colour red. 
  • Where do honey bees live? Honey bees live in hives (man made). In the wild, they live in the hollow of trees. There are three types of bees in a colony: a queen, the workers and drones. Each plays a different role in the colony. 
  • There are over  270 bee species in Great Britain,  some of them are honey bees.
  • Are Bees insects? Yes. Bees are insects, they have 3 pairs of segmented legs which are attached to their thorax (upper part of the body). That is they have six legs.
  • The female bees in the hive, with the exception of the queen, are called worker bees. They can not lay fertilized eggs, though they do lay unfertilized ones if there is no queen. These unfertilized eggs are what eventually become drones. 
  • How many wings does a bee have? Bees have 2 pairs of wings. The forewing and hindwing, giving them 4 individual wings in total. Like their legs, the wings are attached to their thorax. In flight, bees typically flap their wings around 230 times per seconds. In addition to flight, bees use their wings for thermo-regulation (temperature regulation), nest ventilation, and communication.
  • How many eyes does a bee have? Bees have five eyes in total, as incredible as that may seem. They have two large eyes called the compound eyes, the two eyes have tiny cells that piece together an image of what bees can see. The other three eyes known as simple eyes or occelli which  form a triangle on the head of a bee, help it detect light (but not shape). Occelli helps bees detect when a predator is approaching.
  •  What are male honey bees called? Male honey bees are called drones. They are generally larger than workers (female honey bees). They do not sting, they also do not help in hive maintenance, their only purpose is to mate with a queen. 
  • Do any other insect species apart from honey bees produce food consumed by human beings? No! Honey is the only human food produced by any insect species. 
  • Is honey a healthy food? Yes, it is. It contains antioxidants and vitamins, and it is fat free and cholesterol free. 

UK Specific Honey Bee Facts

  • British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) is the definitive organisation/authority for anything related to beekeeping in the UK.
  • The British black bee (Apis mellifera mellifera), a descendant of the European dark bee, is the only known British honey bee.
  • There are over  270 recorded bee species in Great Britain,  some of them are honey bees.
  • The British national hive design was based on the Langsthorn hive.
  • British beekeepers kept their bees in a skep, which is then slotted into a south facing recess in a garden wall, called bee bole until wooden beehives were introduced in the late 19th century. 
  • The largest number of bee boles in the UK was found at Ganllwyd, near Dolgellau in Wales. During restoration by the national trust in 2011, a total of 46 bee boles were discovered. 
  • Honey bees work all their short lives. Once they hatch, they become nurse bees, graduating to become cleaners, eventually they become guard bees and finally foragers. 
  • Honey bees outnumber the residents of London in the summer months. A situation that is ascribed to an increase in the number of urban beekeepers.  
  • A honey and olive oil preparation that keeps hair healthy and lustrous was created by Queen Anne In the early 1700’s.

General Facts About Honey Bee 

  • Faces – Honeybees are said to recognise and remember human faces
  • Collaboration – There is a video circulating on the internet showing two honey bees working together to open a bottle of fizzy drink. 
  • Honey bees  fly at an average speed of 25km per hour. That is the maximum speed of an Electric Scooter.
  • If a bee loses its stinger, it will die. This is because the bee leaves behind part of its digestive tract along with its stinger after it has stung. The abdominal rupture kills the bee.
  • Honey bees are capable of being trained to detect illnesses in humans. 
  • Honey bees use their long tongues called the proboscis to suck nectar out of a flower. 
  • Workers bees are sometimes called “undertaker bees” because they oversee the removal of dead bees from the hive. 
  • Pinocembrin, a powerful antioxidant, is  found in honey and propolis. 
  • The world’s oldest fermented beverage, mead, is made from fermented honey.  
  • A 2000-year-old jar of honey was found by an explorer in King Tut’s tomb and it was claimed to still taste delicious. This shows honey can last for a very long time.
  • Honey is effective in healing open wounds and combating infections.  It is also an energy booster, it is a source of energy that can help prevent fatigue and boost physical performance. 
  • Worker bees have barbed stinger while queens stinger is smooth and it is mostly used in killing other queens.
  • A worker bee communicates the locations of food and water or a new home through a dance known as “Waggle Dance” or honey bee dance.
  • Honey bees huddle together in a winter cluster in order to keep warm. 
  • A worker bee makes about half to one teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. 
  • Honey bees are the only bees that make honey. Though bumble bees make honey-like substances, it tastes nothing like honey that humans consume. 
  • Bees are so particular about the cleanliness of their hive that they will temporarily leave it  to take a cleansing flight  especially in the cold winter months. 

Amazing Statistical Facts about Honey Bees

  • To make about half a kg ( 1lb)  of honey, bees have to fly over 55,000 miles. 
  • There are more than 300 taste sensors on the tips of the antennae of honey bees. 
  • To make about half a kilogram  of honey,  bees  must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers.
  •  Bees have a special stomach for storing nectar called honey stomac. It  holds around 70 mg of nectar, the approximate weight of the bee.
  • To fuel a bee’s flight around the world, it would take about 1 ounce of honey.  
  • During one foraging  flight from the hive, a single honey bee visits between 50 and 100 flowers. 
  • A small colony of bees needs about 17kg of honey to survive winter. 
  • There are more than 90million honey bee hives globally.
Video of 2 honey bees working together to open a  bottle of fizzy drink

Video of 2 honey bees working together to open a bottle of fizzy drink

In this   interesting video, two honey bees are seen working together, to open a bottle of popular orange flavoured fizzy drink, Fanta. The video was said to have been filmed in Brazil. The woman doing the filmin said in Portuguese The bees teamed up to steal my soda”. The video was shared on YouTube by “ViralHog” 

Bees, especially honeybees, are very clever creatures both individually, or as part of up to 59,000 other bees in a colony, which is recognised as a single, superorganism.  We came across the  news of the video of the  two bees that opened a bottle of Fanta, while researching The Hive’s facts about bees page.  If you are curious about any aspect of the honey bee’s life, you should visit the page. You will find amazing and interesting information, including the fact that bees do recognize and remember people’s faces, despite having a brain the size of a sesame seed. 

If you find beekeeping fascinating and want to know more about it, a beginner’s beekeeping book will teach you beekeeping fundamentals. You will also find in the beginner’s guide the importance of bees in the ecosystem, where you learn the significant role bees play in our environment and why perhaps, through your engagement in natural beekeeping, you would also be doing humanity a great favour by playing your part in the effort to tackle the decline in bee populations. 

Beekeeping is one of the oldest human’s pastimes, dating back to over a thousand years ago. But that does not diminish the unfortunate fact that the decline in bee populations is not unconnected to human endeavours —- some of which are mindless. It is however  heartening to see various ecological innovations by the same humans attempt at curbing the alarming decrease in these  honey-making insects’ numbers. 

Tags:  bees video, honey bees, bee facts, bees trivia, intelligent bee, beekeeping book, technologies in beekeeping 

10 beginners books on conventional and natural beekeeping

10 beginners books on conventional and natural beekeeping

1. A beginner’s guide to Natural Beekeeping

Released in May 2001, A beginners guide to natural beekeeping is a basic, introductory book to natural beekeeping. The book does not have detailed in-depth practical beekeeping information like some of the other books. It is aimed primarily at people who are thinking about getting started in beekeeping.

2. Natural Beekeeping with the Warre Hive

Natural beekeeping with Warre Hive is another awesome natural beekeeping book a beginner should have in his or her beekeeping tool kit. David Heaf’s book has a section that covers in great detail the material, construction, and components of the Warré hive. It covers everything you need to know on how to build the Warre Hive from scratch and if you don’t want to build your own, there is a resource section in the back of the book including someone who makes them. Other sections cover such topics as getting, hiving, feeding your bee; monitoring and enlarging your hive etc.

3. Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture

In this Ross Conrad’s natural beekeeping book, the best strategies for keeping honey bees healthy are laid out in simple details.  Ross brings together the methods and strategies for controlling mites; breeding for naturally resistant bees, eliminating foulbrood diseases and many others.  chapter on marketing provides valuable advice for anyone who intends to sell a wide range of hive products. Valuable advice is also provided for those that intend to sell a wide range  of hive products in the chapter on marketing. This is a book for beginners, experienced beekeepers that are looking to develop accurate knowledge of pest-management and someone that’s into bee products business. 

4. Homegrown Honey Bees: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping Your First

If you are  new to beekeeping, then you might want to grasp and read a copy of Alethea Morrisson’s book. The book is specifically designed for those that are completely new to the world of beekeeping. It is a book that experts alike will find informative and probably share with a fellow beekeeper.  With  explicit texts and beautiful pictures, this book will certainly whet your appetite for beekeeping. It is packed with an in-depth discussion  of colony hierarchy, allergies, bee behavior, and more. 

5. The Backyard Beekeeper, 4th Edition: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden

This is a masterpiece from highly experienced beekeeper, Kim Flottum. He understands the needs of a beekeeper quite so well. The Backyard Beekeeper is a must-have tool kit for newbies, for Flottum communicates unequivocally to those that are just dipping their toes into the world of beekeeping. The book contains fun facts, helpful tips and a short humurous narrative that helps make reading less tediuos.  

6. The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally

The author of the book introduces the reader to the fundamentals of beekeeping, the players, namely the queen,the workers,drone, and the beekeeper. In this book you will learn about how you can keep bees in a natural and simple practical system without worrying about pests and diseases  and minimal intervention by you. Essentially, it is about reducing your work as a beekeeper. The book is a collection of posts on the author’s website, the content of which was written and refined from comments on bee forums over the years. The Practical Beekeeper contains 3 volumes; the beginners, intermediate and advanced. 

7. Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

Buzz, written by Thor Hanson introduces the reader to the history of beekeeping and how important these honey-making insects are to humanity. The book also touches on the decline in the bee population. Buzz contains tips and narratives which the beginner and experienced beekeeper would find informative. So regardless of how long or short your journey in beekeeping has been, you would certainly find something new to learn in this book. 

8. The Beekeeper’s Bible

Another great book for beginners! “The Beekeeper’s Bible” goes over the history of beekeeping all the way to hive management and it also features a number of recipes for products with bee-based ingredients. The Beekeeper’s Bible is an ultimate and practical guide to the fundamentals of beekeeping and is a book for all levels of beekeeping. 

9. Beekeeping for Beginners: How To Raise Your First Bee Colonies

This is another beekeeping book for beginners, written by an experienced beekeeper, Amber Bradshaw. The book contains beekeeping essentials including  everything you need to know to begin your first colony, how to start your colony off right with simple guides that feature the best practices and  natural approaches. It also includes clearly defined terms and a complete glossary that will have you talking like a pro beekeeper in no time.

10. The Hive and the Honey Bee Revisited: An Annotated Update of Langstroth’s Classic

With inspiring, practical and clearly laid out techniques for beekeeping, Roger Hoopingarner’s The Hive and the Honey Bee Revisited is certainly one of the most informative beekeeping literature out there. It is an ideal book for the aspiring beekeeper and what the experienced folks should have in their tool kit. The book covers topics like tools, obtaining, sitting and hiving your bees, feeding, and monitoring the hive, harvesting and extracting honey with simple tools etc. 

Tags:  natural beekeeping, newbie beekeeper, treatment free beekeeping,