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Honey Bees at Honeybuns

A fascinating part of the Honey Bee life cycle occurred today...

By Barry, baker and wildlife lover.

Graham and I were on our way to inspect the hives Honeybuns are hosting. We heard a gentle hum from nearby. Graham spotted the culprit, a large droop of swarming bees hanging languidly from a branch.

We soon picked out two more bee balls in the vicinity. Naturally our first instinct was to pull out our mobile phones and film this natural wonder. Two more colleagues joined us. We stood about a bit, each spouting half remembered bee facts. We then tested our resolve to see who would get close enough for the killer shot. Jack got the winning image by holding his phone mere centimeters from the buzzing horde. Brave lad, who needs the BBC natural history unit?

Honey Bees swarm around tree at Honeybuns

Were the bees escaping?

An anxious phone call to bee Keeper Jacqui Neary was made. Were our entire bee population escaping? Would we be left beeless? Jacqui explained that it was perfectly normal. When a hive grows too large the founding Queen leaves with some of her entourage. They set out to find a new home leaving a new queen in her place.

Swarming is an intruding event which bears more explanation. A bee colony is a super organism with around 50,000 bees busy with their own niche employment. Each little bee has a role. Guarding the colony, foraging, tending the next generation, creating wax, comb and honey for the lean winter months. Not forgetting cleaning the hive, and paying due care to her Majesty.

The Queen must keep all her underlings in check by a pheromone she emits. When a colony grows too large some workers cannot connect with the queen’s pheromones. To these bees the Queen simply doesn’t exist. They must have a Queen to survive, so they feed a larvae special ‘Royal jelly’ which transforms one lucky bee into a young Queen. A hive cannot host two rulers so the old monarch leaves with up to 60% of her workers. This can be tens of thousands of stripy little ladies.

Sadly Queen bees are not the strongest flyers. The homeless hive must have several rest stops for the old leader. This is the classic bee swarm which we witnessed today. The Queen is safely tucked up in the center of the swarm while scouts are sent on missions to find a new home.  

Jacqui made a visit later that day and updated us on our bee swarm…

She explained that she had looked at the swarms and they were not her bees. However, she did try to catch them and ensured us not to panic or worry if we see a swarm. It is a natural process that bees do to multiply.

A swarm is not angry and will not cause any trouble. They may stay in the boxes Jacqui put them in. If they do, the she'll have just gained some free bees and hopefully more honey! If they don't stay they will swarm again only to look for a new home.

They may go back into the trees where they will either decide to stay or move onto a better place to stay. This time of year is prime swarming time. It does happen quite a lot, they may be from a hive from else where or they may even be wild bees.

Bee hives at Honeybuns

An extra update from Jacqui…

'I have caught both and they are now in their Nuc boxes and I have put them in the paddock where other hives are. Just so everyone knows they are smaller polystyrene boxes and are further forward in the paddock. Hopefully they will stay in their nice warm new homes and I’ve just gained two lots of free bees.”

Reducing plastic usage at Honeybuns

In other news, we are continuing to strive to reduce our plastic use. Chelsey has been busy sourcing biodegradable and recyclable packaging for the Honeybuns online shop. We have taken delivery of compostable film for our cake bars and tray bakes. It came all the way from Italy.

We are planning on making a trial run very soon. Next, Chelsey has her eye on eliminating the single use plastic from the bakery. It’s a challenge but we have made great progress this year.

 If you haven't already read our last Bee Green blog, find it here.

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