Members of the Abbots Langley Gardening Society enjoyed a fascinating evening at Manor House Pavilion on 21st October learning all about the complex lives of honey bees. The bee larvae hatch in their wax cells after three days and live for the first 36 hours on royal jelly and then on pollen/nectar before pupating. After three weeks they emerge as bees. The young bees always clean out their cells ready for the next generation.
In high summer a bee hive will average 50,000-60,000 bees. With this number of mouths to feed, they prefer to collect pollen from places with a high density of flowering plants such as orchards, oil seed rape fields, willows along rivers, bluebells, and horse chestnut trees. Different pollens produce honey of different colours and flavours. The summer is spent producing honey to keep the hive fed during the winter months when few flowers are around.
Bees have many enemies such as mice who find the hives very cosy in winter and the honey tasty. Woodpeckers find bees an easy meal so hives need protection to keep these creatures away from the entrance. The varroa mite (1mm) can cause extensive damage to a bee colony; they drink the blood of the larva, pupa (getting inside the cell before it is sealed) and adult bee. This may cause the bees to grow deformed. The holes left after they drink the blood allow viruses in. The varroa mite has nearly eliminated wild bee colonies.
Back garden bee keeping is being encouraged to help protect our food resources. Without bees to pollinate our orchards, vegetable fields etc food production will drop drastically and shortages will follow.
Originally bee hives were kept by monks as they wanted the wax to make candles. The wax cells were washed in water to remove the honey and hence mead was invented. They also used the honey for medicinal purposes and to this day honey is believed to cure many problems.
On 18 November, Neil Holmes-Smith will be giving a talk on herbaceous perennials.
From herbaceous borders to wild flower meadows, cut flowers to wetlands, ground cover to rock gardens, herbaceous perennials are the most universally adaptable and ornamental of all garden plants.