World Bee Day
To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN designated 20 May as World Bee Day.
We are fortunate in Warwickshire that the importance of bees was recognised by the Market Hall Museum more than eighty years ago when a glass walled viewing hive was installed allowing visitors to observe their fascinating world leaving the hive to collect pollen and nectar to build their community of pollinator bees.
Our volunteer beekeeper Mike Townsend shares the work of caring for the bees with Museum staff and volunteers. The hive has been temporarily removed because the Museum is closed due to the Covid19 virus and is being cared for by the Gibson family at their typical Warwickshire farm.
We are also fortunate that the efforts of local beekeepers from Warwick and Leamington Beekeepers has encouraged a lot more people to care for bees with the number of beekeepers growing from around 30 some years ago to over 200 now meaning we have responded to the need to increase the production of food through the increase in bees in their role as the pollination workforce.
Local beekeepers have responded to the Governments call for bees to be continued to be cared for to maintain this important pollination workforce during the current difficult times.
Our Museum Bees are currently being looked after by a local farmer and their children. Sue who is looking after them has told us that the hive has expanded and they have seen lots of bee larvae and new bees being born. They are very busy and have lots of pollen on their legs and they can see honey too.
Mike explained the work he is having to do now looking after his bees in apiaries.
Coming out of winter checking the bees are healthy means carefully looking through the hive examining every detail of their nest for signs of a number of diseases which influences their ability to become a strong pollination workforce. He also likes to check there is a mother bee, called the queen, in all the hives and just like the queen in the museum hive he likes to mark her with a coloured water-based pen in case she needs to be found later on. This helps him manage the hive to stop the bees dividing their nest in a process known as swarming. This is normal behaviour for the bees as it is the way they survive through colony reproduction but we like to do this in a controlled way so that a swarm of bees is not a nuisance by unexpectedly landing in someone’s garden. Local beekeepers have a well worked out system for collecting swarms without charge and the bees may be given to a new beekeeper.
Bees have enjoyed the Spring, pollinating fruit trees and early top fruit and beekeepers rewarded with some honey surplus to the bee’s needs.
Town environments offer surprising opportunities for bees and the Countryside is alive with hedgerow blossom. Later Mike may move his bees to pollinate a farmer’s field crops.