Bee Experience

Fancy having a peek at life in a beehive – up close and personal

Ever wondered what goes on inside a bee hive? Here’s your opportunity to find out!

Did you know …

The honeybee is a highly sophisticated insect that has evolved over millions of years. The earliest recorded Bee was found in Myanmar. It was found encased in amber and has been dated as 100 million years old

Once again, by kind invitation of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, the Swansea and District Beekeepers’ Society will be bringing their very popular “Bee Experience” to the Smallholder and Garden Festival. Anyone – age is absolutely no limit! – can get properly kitted out in a full bee suit and see a hive of honey bees being opened, inside a bee-proof tent. As long as the weather is reasonably warm and not too windy, there will be opportunities to handle a frame of honeycomb and see the three types of bee that make up a functioning colony of honeybees.

Age is not a barrier – even if the hands appear a little large! (Welsh Game Fair, 2013)

Did you know …

A full colony, at its peak, contains between 45 and 60 thousand bees.

The workers, (females) make up the largest number and are responsible for virtually all the work done – comb building, cleaning, feeding, guarding and collecting nectar, pollen, water and propolis. The drones (or males), although present only during the summer, are essential members of the colony. Finally, there is “Her Majesty”, the Queen Bee. The Queen was regarded as the King until the early 1600s, when it was realised that the King was actually female and, moreover, was the only bee that laid eggs. So the Queen Bee should, perhaps, be more accurately be described as the Mother Bee.

Did you know …

A queen bee, at her peak, produces up to 2000 eggs a day – more than her own bodyweight.

Did you know …

A worker, during the summer, lives for only about six weeks. The first half of this is spent in the hive and during the second part she will forage producing about 1/12th teaspoon of honey.

The Welsh Game Fair, 2013 was rather wet but
there was still great interest in the Bee Experience

The Queen produces two different types of egg, depending on the size of the cell in the honeycomb. Fertilised eggs are laid in the “normal” sized cells of the comb and develop into workers while unfertilised eggs are laid in small patches of larger cells and these develop into drones.

New queens develop in special, downward-pointing cells built on the face or edge of a honeycomb. These cells are large enough to hold more royal jelly than the larva can eat before pupating. This special food, together with the extra space, enables the larva to grow to its maximum size and reproductive capacity. The raising of new queens is done either because the old queen is considered to be ‘past it’ or has been injured or because the colony has become too large for the space it has.

Did you know …

The bee was an emblem of Potnia, the Minoan-Mycenaean "Mistress", also referred to as "The Pure Mother Bee". Her priestesses received the name of "Melissa" ("bee").

There is, however, far more to bees and bee-keeping – ask any bee-keeper and they will say that they are always learning something new about (and from) their bees! So, if you are thinking of becoming a bee-keeper, want to know more about these wonderful and essential creatures, or just want to take a peek in a hive, come and visit “The Bee Experience”. It will be located in the Forestry area of the Showground. Come early to book your place as they are limited to ensure that everyone entering the tent has a good view. “The Bee Experience” is open to old and young, big and small.

The Bee Experience at Bridgend Agricultural Show, 2013

Gather round, we’re going to talk bees! (Welsh Game Fair, 2013)

Did you know …

In many cultures it was believed that bees could understand what was said to them. Families were therefore careful to inform the bees of any important family events such as marriages, births and deaths. Telling the bees was done in different ways, for example whispering the news and leaving an appropriate gift, such as wedding cake, at the hive entrance.

The Welsh Beekeepers’ Association (WBKA), is the umbrella body of local associations in Wales, and will also be present at the Festival. At the stand in the Floral Hall, further information will be available, including how to get started in beekeeping and how to get in touch with your local Association.
Swansea and District Beekeepers’ Society wishes to acknowledge the kind support of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and its staff for “the Bee Experience”.

Photos by C Bown