We caught up with Janice Sharkey who we met at the urban croft a few weeks ago. She has a hive there and we were interested to find out more about her fabulous Bees!
Hi Janice you keep Bees at the Urban croft can you tell us a bit about how you got into Bee Keeping?
Always been interested in wildlife. Got the ‘buzz’ so to speak when looking into a hive at the Ayr Flower Show 2010. Went on the Glasgow Beekeepers beginner’s course. A year later took the leap into the deep end and bought a colony.
What kind of hive do you have and how is it different from others?
Janice pictured above with her gear on and the Cedar hive.
A cedar national hive. The resin helps to keep the hive more water resistant. I am also very keen on the polystyrene hives as they keep the temperature more even against the elements.
How many bees roughly live in your colony and what species are they?
This depends on the time of year. In the summers it could be up to 50 thou bees. In the winter more like 10 thou clustering around the queen bee to keep her warm.
Can you tell us a bit about honey Bees verse other species of Bee? Recent campaigns to highlight the plight of the Bee etc. have raised awareness of how important they are to the pollinisation of plants that benefit not only the plant species but all other life that relies on them.
Left; Honey Bee (not to be confused with a Wasp!) Right; A native Bumble Bee.
Honeybees are non-native as opposed to our native bumblebees. I am a member of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and have a wee bit knowledge on them. Some bumblebees have long and others short tounges which mean they will feed on different flowers. Often honeybees forage on many wildflowers and open flowers that bumbles don’t go to which is good as they are not really competing for the same food source. Watch what bee goes into a foxglove and you’ll see it’s the bumblebee with the long tongue. A colony of bumblebees will only have about 400 bees whereas honeybees can number up to 50 thousand in a hive which makes for mass pollination of crops. Crucially because honeybees have to keep the queen warm throughout the winter they need to store energy i.e. honey whereas the bumblebee queen hibernates alone and has only a small amount of food to keep her alive till spring.
I’ve heard that they can be hard to keep because of infections and pests can you highlight some of the problems and preventative measures?
It’s the beekeeper’s responsibility to look after their colony against pests and diseases. First, build a strong colony by ensuring the hive is south facing, in a semi sheltered place and not under a tree. Make sure the colony has enough food otherwise feed them sugar syrup/candy. Also that the queen has space to lay otherwise they will swarm. So always inspect your hive at least once every week weather permitting.
Simple things to do are put on a mouse guard over the entrance in Sept. Treat against varroa mite using various methods from icing sugar in summer to thymol based treatments in autumn to oxalic acid in January.
The two things that kill a hive apart from varroa are dampness and starvation.
What can we do to encourage Bees of any kind on our gardens? Are there any plants which are easy to plant they like? Spaces for the Queen to hibernate etc.?
We can all help. Plant simple open flowers and have a variety for all year round. Think of the seasons and maybe plan three flowering plants for each season. My favourites are crocus, helleborus and pulmonaria for spring. Summer wouldn’t be without lavender, raspberries, thyme. Autumn includes rudbeckia, asters, sedum. Winter is ivy, snowdrops, heathers.
For anyone thinking of taking up or getting involved with Bee keeping what are your top suggestions?
Join a beekeeping assn.
Try to get as much practical knowledge as you can maybe helping a local beekeeper.
Read a book on the subject to give you a basic knowledge.
Be organized and ready for all eventualities before opening a hive.
Never open a hive unless the weather is right.
Remember you can learn a lot just observing a hive from a few meters away such as the fascination when you see pollen coming in via returning foraging bees and you know that is a sure sign the queen is laying and the colony is likely to be working well.
And remember don’t confuse the honey Bee with a Wasp! At first glance they look similar.
by Lisa Craig
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