The Bee Network – what a buzzing opportunity!

Bees, I have always had a soft spot for them. I was that weird fearless child who would push past my screaming mother with a glass and card to save that panicked little bee who just couldn’t figure out why the window wasn’t a passageway to the outside world again. From a very young age, I have always respected animals and found them absolutely fascinating.

As a recent Zoology graduate from the University of Leeds, I learnt even more about the importance of bees, not only for the maintenance of our ecosystems, but also to provide us with food via crop pollination. It wasn’t until I was lectured by an academic here that I heard about the three hives on campus and I knew I wanted to be involved with the Beekeeping Network as soon as possible. Protecting our bees is so important, especially as their population numbers are crashing due to increased urbanisation, pesticide use and introduced disease. Beekeeping benefits our bees by helping to re-establish their colonies and can improve local pollinator rates which in turn has a huge positive impact on your “feeling sorry itself” garden. We of course get a taste of locally sourced honey which is special in itself, and this of course reduces the demand for imported stock that has travelled a long distance, therefore cutting back on carbon emission impacts. There really wasn’t any reason why I didn’t want to sign up!

The first meeting took place in February where I was met with a lot of friendly faces including Jen Dyer. It was rather wonderful being in a room full of people who all wanted to be a part of something that benefited our bees as well as themselves. A few slides were presented to us that gave an overview of the colony structure and included some photographs of the hives from previous years. I never actually realised how many bees can fit inside a hive, it’s madness! A virtual hive was used during this session instead of a real one as the colder months leave the bees feeling very sleepy and inactive. This virtual hive wasn’t the most techy, yet still very informative. It consisted of a wooden box that contained several sliding panels with various pictures of the hexagonal structures inside. We were asked to identify which hexagonal cell contained honey, wax, eggs or diseases such as chalkbrood, a fungal disease that attacks the eggs and larvae. This triggered a lot of discussion and interaction which was fantastic as we were all able to learn from each other. We were informed that with the following months comes the buzzing activity and honey harvesting, so bring on the warmer weather!

I have now signed up to the Beekeeping Network newsletter and avidly follow their Facebook page which provides activity updates and general bee news. Feel free to contact Jen Dyer at j.dyer@leeds.ac.uk if you wish to find out more! It’s time to save our bees!

Written by Emily Rampling (Administration Assistant – SCAPE)