Why not keep bees? Who doesn’t like honey? It will benefit the environment and bee a great experience for the children…I thought.
Badgemore Primary School has been fortunate enough to win quite a tidy sum of money from Tesco to become a school of beekeepers. I wanted to share our weekly experiences as we (hopefully) stroll down the garden path from complete novices to…successful beekeepers. However, from past experiences of delving into the unknown, I very much doubt that there will be a smooth beeline to our destination.
The plan is for the school to purchase two beehives and a swarm of ‘gentle’ bees to support the children’s knowledge and understanding of the work of bees. Several parents and staff have been enrolled on an ‘Introduction to Beekeeping Course’ with the intention of welcoming our first colony in late spring/ early summer.
This week was our first session and it suddenly hit me just how little I knew about bees. I knew they made honey, although I must admit I didn’t really know the reason. I knew they lived in a hive, but I had never been near one. I definitely knew that numbers of bees were declining in the UK, but I couldn’t remember the cause.
I’m going to have to pay more attention than I thought to the course.
First session complete, this is what I learnt:
- Beekeeping requires considerable commitment.
- There will be 60,000 bees in just one of our hives.
- Bees really do fly in a straight line (beeline) so we have to build a high fence around the hives to ensure they fly high above the children’s heads.
- Something to do with ‘swarming’ which means loads and loads of bees leave their hive once a year as a giant ball and hunt out a new home nearby – this could be a disaster at a school! I hear that this is preventable.
- We really can purchase ‘gentle’ bees and it’s all in the breeding.
- Finally, the lady bees do all the hard work – the workers are female and I think they make the honey (don’t quote me on anything – but I do now know that honey is the bees’ food).
The queen lays all the eggs and the male bees, the drones, just hang out in the hive all day long.
One session down, four more to go and I feel more worried now than I did yesterday – I’ll let you know how we progress.