Beginning to keep bees

Bees are in serious decline and the efforts of individual bee-keepers may be critical to their future.  Good news then that there was a great turn-out for David Lee who delivered an introduction to bee-keeping to new and experienced keepers in Clonakilty this week.  Sadly the days when bees minded themselves, and feral queens from wild swarms could replace missing queens have gone, thanks to a mixture of environmental pollution, bad weather and habitat loss.  
David Lee gives his talk, listened to by chairman Liam Hodnett
To ensure the success of their hives individual bee-keepers need to know how to rear queens and to look for signs of the foulbrood and mites which have devastated many swarms, David explained.  With great wit and clarity he showed how the life-cycle of the queen is critical to the success of the hive.  Members of  SWCBKA learnt that in the space of two or three weeks in the spring, a grub is fed royal jelly, sealed into a special queen cell and then trained to fly on hatching, ready for a first flight in which she mates with upwards of 15 drones.  A million sperm are needed so that she can lay the 2,000 eggs a day needed throughout  the winter and spring months to produce a full swarm of up to 50,000 bees. 

Queen cells ready to hatch
A pity that we misunderstood for years the importance of the drone, David added.  They used to be discarded by bee-keepers as useless to the honey producing workers. Now we know that many are needed to mate with the queen and that unlike worker bees who might steal honey, drones are welcome in neighbouring hives and for mating, ensuring the necessary genetic diversity and strength of bee colonies.

Drones mate with a queen in flight
David will deliver the second part of his talk next Wednesday 28th March at 8.30 pm, in O Donovan's Hotel, Clonakilty.  All are very welcome.  Tea, coffee and biscuits to follow!