The plight of the honey bee may not be something which you are aware of but their declining numbers put the future of the world’s crop pollination in jeopardy. Did you know for example that of the 100 crop species which provide 90% of the world’s food, over 70 of them are pollinated by bees?
It was these troubles that bees face that prompted Roderick Smith to get involved and start his own hive. Three years later and the fate of the honey bee is still precarious but Rod is doing his bit having now expanded to three hives. Rod believes that more than three hives would mean it wouldn’t be a hobby anymore as each hive takes an hour and a half a week to check.
So what does beekeeping involve? First you need to know the three different types of bees in the Apis Mellifera species; the queen, the workers and the drones. There is only one queen in a hive and she has no barb which means she can sting many times. Then there are workers who are all female, they can only sting once as they do have barbs which are pulled free of their bodies and they are the foragers who do all the pollen collecting. Finally there are drones which are all male, do not sting and their primary purpose is mating with the queen.
Workers can fly up to a maximum of three miles to gather pollen and digest it in their honey stomach and add spit to it before depositing it in the foundation to ripen and become honey. Mmmm sounds delicious doesn’t it? The queen will tell her worker sisters the location of the site in the form of a waggle dance. This is done by the position of the sun, whether it is shining or not.
Winter is the quiet time for bee keeping as the drones die off and the workers ball around the queen to keep her warm. You will not see many bees at this time of year as when the temperature is below 6 degrees Celsius they prefer to be in the hive. If too much honey has been removed from the hive there is a danger the bees can starve to death so bee keepers feed them with blocks of fondant which is concentrated icing sugar.
Bee keeping courses tend to start in the winter so that prospective keepers are ready to start their colony in the spring. The British Beekeepers Association (www.bbka.org.uk) is based in Stoneleigh and there is a local branch called the Warwick & Leamington Beekeepers (www.warleambees.com). They match you with a local mentor who provides advice which is very useful for helping those starting out and there’s even a local hive maker who lives in Wellsbourne.
Rod became involved in the Bishop’s Tachbrook parish through previous vicar Mervyn Roberts’ article on St Chad’s church’s stained glass windows. Popping in with his wife Jill, they soon discovered some of her ancestors are buried in the graveyard. Ever since then they have attended St Chads as they feel it is a family church which makes them feel part of the community. Rod is now deputy church warden having been an altar server first. Between Rod and Jill they have five children (Rod two daughters and Jill two sons and a daughter) and nine grandchildren; soon to be 10 on or around the 16th February (my due date too!).