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Wholesome-NI and Local honey...

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

I started to become more interested in bees during the lockdown and began reading up on them and observing them in the garden and watching video clips on YouTube. From this I developed an interest in actual beekeeping and after a bit of research I discovered a course at my local agricultural college ran by my local beekeeping club.

Enrolled I did and I have loved every minute of it since. Although not an actual keeper of bees (yet), I have the hive and equipment and will hopefully take ownership of my bees in the springtime.

And by no means an expert, I thought I would jot down a few things about these fascinating creatures and share a little bit of what I have learned so far.

Some of the beehives at my local club.

So, why are Bees important?

You may think that bees only produce honey and wax, but did you know they are also an integral part of most ecosystems. The fruit and vegetables that we eat have likely been directly pollinated by bees, not to mention the flowers in our gardens and parks, and the meat we eat has probably been fed on food pollinated by bees.

I’ve read that one in every 3 mouthfuls we eat depends on pollination either directly or indirectly.

Without bees and other pollinators it is estimated that it would cost UK farmers £1.8 billion a year to pollinate crops, can you image the price of fruit, vegetables, and meat if that was the case!

What is raw honey and what are the benefits of it?

Raw honey is honey that comes to you straight from the hive.

It is completely natural and comes to you in the same condition as it was in the hive. It can be run through a mesh filter to remove any extras such as pollen, dead bees etc. or it comes as is but there is no processing of the honey, and nothing is added or taken away, so all the goodness of the honey is preserved.

Not only is honey delicious it also provides us with a boost to our immune system, with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and if you suffer with hay fever or have sore throat or cough, you really should try local honey.

When you are buying local honey, it should have a label which will have the relevant information. Check the label for the name and contact details of the honey producer, a lot number, best before date and the weight. Compare it to the honey you have bought or find on the supermarket shelf to see where it has came from!

(See link to newspaper article at the bottom of this).

Did you know?

A honeybee colony is made up of up to 50,000 bees.

One of these being the Queen, the rest are Worker bees, and Drones.

The Queen and Workers can sting, but a Drone cannot sting.

The Queen is the mother of the bees in the colony, she mates once in her life with between 10 and 20 drones and from this she can lay enough eggs for the rest of her life and decides whether the eggs are going to be fertilized eggs (female worker) or unfertilized (male drone).

Worker bees (Female) are the smallest bees in size but the largest in numbers, thousands in a colony. Workers keep the colony going, they do all the work. They do the foraging, collecting the pollen and nectar, they are scout bees, they fan the hive to keep it cool in summer, and they guard the hive, clean it, and feed the larva. They are even funeral bees, removing dead bees from the hive.

Drones (Male), they are larger than workers and their sole purpose is to mate with the queen, numbers a couple of hundred in a colony. Any drone that mates with the queen dies after mating, any that don’t mate get to hang around relying on the food the workers bring back to the hive because drones cannot collect pollen or nectar. This life comes back to haunt the drone in wintertime, because they are a drain on the hives resources, so they are either killed by the workers or evicted from the hive.

The colony does not hibernate during winter, but crowd close together known as a cluster. They create warmth with their bodies and flight muscles and cluster around the queen to keep her warm, at a fairly constant 35°C. The job of the winter worker bee is to see the queen through to the spring so she can start laying eggs again.

What can you do to help bees?

Plant lots of bee friendly flowers in your garden and stop using pesticides in your garden, make your garden bee friendly using native fruits and plants.

Bees love dandelions, so don’t be tempted to get rid of them, they are a great source of food providing both pollen and nectar in the early spring.

Try and provide a water source for bees, use a shallow dish with water and place stones in the water. The bee can land on the stones and get a drink from the water.

If you see a bee motionless it could be just exhausted, provide it with a sugar and water mix to give it an energy hit.

Buy local produce and organic if possible, and if you see a bee don’t kill it!

Click the link below, I came across this article over Christmas and couldn’t believe what I was reading.

Have a read, and the next time you are in a supermarket have a look and see for yourself…..

Until next time....

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