Over the last few years, the health of the UK honey bee population has been a subject of real concern. Poor weather, loss of habitat, the destruction of colonies by disease, and the continual uncertainty regarding the impact of pesticides have all affected the honey bee.
But why does this matter?
Perhaps the most important reason is because bees are pollinators that are absolutely vital to our food chain. One third of the food we eat would not be available to us were it not for pollinators, of which honey bees are the most prolific. In the UK, about 70 crops rely on, or benefit from pollination.
Creating a buzz in the garden
Whatever the size of your garden or window box, everyone can do their bit to help the honey bee:
Don’t cut ivy back! It is one of the only food sources for bees in the autumn so keeping some intact once it is mature and flowering helps the bees stock up before winter.
Leave an area of your garden to grow wild – dandelions and forget-me-nots can look pretty and provide a great source of nectar for bees.
Eat more local honey and enjoy the taste of food that has travelled ‘bee’ miles not ‘air’ miles.
“Bees have been foraging on a wide variety of plants this summer. As it was such a cold spring here, there was still blossom on the crab apple, apple and pear trees,” says local beekeeper Louise.
“They’ve also been spotted in great numbers foraging on big mauve poppies and recently on giant sunflowers and borage plants.”
National Honey Week
National Honey Week takes place this month so we’re taking a look at how the sweet stuff is made.
A honey bee will make on average about a twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime; plus about a million flowers will have been visited to make just one pound of honey. Bees make honey from nectar; they gather this sweet sticky substance from flowers and mix it with enzymes in their stomachs, storing it in the wax, hexagonal honeycomb.
In a good year, honey bees will make far more honey than they need for themselves. Beekeepers take any spare honey from the hive and cut off the wax so that the honey can be extracted. Good beekeepers always make sure bees have more than enough honey left in the beehive, as this is their food supply too.
Adopt a Beehive
For people who want to learn more about beekeeping, or to help the honey bee in other ways, the BBKA has its “Adopt a Beehive” scheme, where members of the public can adopt a beehive from one of ten different regions in the UK, including Louise’s bees in the east.
It costs £36 to Adopt a Beehive for one year, and in exchange you receive a welcome box of bee-related goodies and updates throughout the year from your beehive and beekeeper. All the profits from the scheme are ploughed into environmental and education projects to help save the honey bee, so you can help these vital pollinators this Honey Week without getting your hands sticky.
— COMPETITION —
Ipswich24 have one Adopt a Beehive set to give away, with the winner receiving a year’s subscription. For your chance to win this fabulous prize just send your answer to the following question, along with your name, address and a daytime contact telephone number to: Adopt a Beehive Competition, Ipswich24, Suite 9, 85 Dales Road, Ipswich, IP1 4JR or you can enter online below ONLY ONE ENTRY PER HOUSEHOLD. The closing date for entries is Tuesday 31st October 2017.
Q. What is honey made from?