There is something about a colony of bees that always fascinates me. The queen dictates how large the colony becomes by the amount of queen pheromone she gives out and spreads around the colony. At the same time, it is the workers who dictate how many eggs she lays (up to two thousand a day or even more), whether these eggs become workers, drones or new queens. They are also the ones who decide if the colony is going to swarm or not. Prior to swarming they stop feeding the queen so much as when she is in full lay, she is too heavy to fly!
It is also the workers rather than the queen who decide where they are going to live, scouts checking out the different sites, coming back and reporting on what they find then more scouts go out to check out the best sites and within a maximum of about five iterations of the process they inevitably find the best of the available sites. This particular swarm was collected close to my hives on Trumpington Allotments.
Of course that is only so long as humans don’t intervene. Shortly after it had settled I had cut off the pieces of branch that the bees had settled on and shaken them into a box. As I have a bit of a housing crisis at the moment i.e. no spare hives, they will be going to a local organic farm tomorrow. Another aspect of the life of the super-organism that is a colony of bees or other social insects for that matter is that there is no competition in the family. They all work for the good of the colony, be that cleaning cells for eggs to be laid in, collecting honey or nectar etc.
I collect only a small amount of honey from each hive by most standards, however this does mean it is several years since I last had to feed them sugar to get through the winter and I don’t put any chemicals into the hive to treat for the varroa mite. At some point this may mean I lose colonies and my heart is not set in stone on the never treating principle but allowing them to swarm means a break in brood production and as the mites lay eggs in brood, particularly drone brood this leads to a reduction in the level of mites. The late long cold spell this year also had this effect and all my colonies are doing well.
As well as collecting honey I also harvest wax and use it to make a skin balm, an ideal preparation for sore or dry skin from gardening, carpentry etc. I do not buy in beeswax for this, preferring to produce less and be able to say that the beeswax is all local and from my own hives in Cambridge.
I sell this for £7 for a 60ml pot which for most people will last a year less if being used on larger areas of skin than just the hands.
To buy some or to book an aromatherapy massage contact me by phone on 07939273569 or email firstname.lastname@example.org@cambridgearomatherapy.com