Be kind on Don’t Step On A Bee Day

Published: Monday 10th July 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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Today is Don’t Step on a Bee Day, so here are some suggestions on how you can help protect these busy little creatures.

According to Friends of the Earth, around 35 bee species in Britain are considered to be at risk of extinction. It has been estimated that there has been an average decline of about 7% across all bee species since 2002. But there is much we can do to turn these statistics around.

First things first, don’t step on or kill a bee. These little buzzers work tirelessly to provide us with much-needed food and resources, and without them we will simply perish.

You can take it one step further and directly help the bees that live near your home. Build a bee hotel in your back garden so that they have somewhere to rest during their hectic day of honey-making. Meanwhile, you can also plant wildflowers that will attract the critters and allow them to thrive.

Finally, you can also protect the British bee by buying locally. The majority of honey sold in the UK is actually imported, which doesn’t support farmers and bees in our local areas.

We spoke to beekeeper and owner of East Riding Honey, Lester Quayle, to find out more about this fascinating insect.

“I look after around 50 to 60 beehives, which are in various places across Hull and East Yorkshire,” Lester tells us. “These produce honey from all sorts of different flowers, and we then sell this to local grocers and health shops in the surrounding area.”

Most of the honey that you see in supermarkets comes from a mixture of plants, such as wildflowers, hedgerows and trees. This produces the well-known, traditional golden honey. However, Lester describes how he can create different types of honey by getting his bees to pollinate one type of flower.

“For example, we take ours to the Heather Moors in North Yorkshire. They only have heather to pollinate and this produces a delicious, dark reddish brown honey. It tastes completely different to your usual golden stuff.”

There are around 50,000 bees in each individual hive at this time of year, with around 10,000 bees per hive during the winter season. Which, if we must say, is a lot of bees to keep track of.

“In summer, I visit each hive on a weekly basis. Here I carry out techniques to prevent the large amounts of bees from swarming,” Lester explains. “Once there is a large number of them, the colony will develop the urge to split into two. Half the bees will fly off with the queen to start a new hive, and the ones left behind will choose a new queen.”

After the threat of swarming has dwindled, Lester will begin to harvest the honey. This is also the time when East Riding Honey will move the hives to different locations as the flowers come into bloom. By September, the bees return to their homes in East Yorkshire.

“In the autumn, the number of bees in the hives will start to decrease, as this is when the workers effectively kick out the male drones that were born to mate with a queen,” says Lester.

“As the weather gets colder, I feed them with a sugar syrup so that they can keep their strength and survive the next few months. I also give them some medicine, which wards off the damaging varroa mite.”

As a beekeeper, Lester sees the importance of bees in his everyday life:

“Honeybees and other bees are the greatest pollinators of all of our food crops. They’re not just vital for honey-making,” he enthuses, “as without bees, we wouldn’t have half as many vegetables, fruits and plants that we are used to today.”

So if you see a bee today (or another other day), be kind and don’t step on it. You never know, it might be the one making your next spoonful of runny honey.

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Published: Monday 10th July 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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