The Skip Garden Bees are Buzzing!

With the warm weather we have seen lots of excitement with our two hives. The air in our little corner of Kings Cross is thick with bees. Having produced two new queens the worker bees have been busy finding a new homes for the queens to lay their brood, writes Jane Riddiford.

Fortunately the Skip Garden bees are placid and the hives are healthy; we are lucky. I am taken back to 2011, when we got our first Global Generation hives ...I spend several hours lifting frames looking for the blue dotted queen, a plan to tame a feisty colony.

Then we move our attention to another hive, the bees are quieter here, the smell of wax and honey is strong and delicious, perhaps too strong? Lots of honey is being made, good stores for the winter but alas no brood, no eggs. Perhaps this is another sign of colony collapse, an epidemic that is sweeping the planet, threatening 30% of our food supply.

Like the canary in the mine the bees are letting us know that we need to find a new story if we are to create a bee-friendly future.

Bare-handed Beekeeper

It is a privilege to have hives outside the window of our garden office. Over the last few weeks they have reminded us how everything is connected.

First it was the large ball of bees we saw hanging on the back of our pizza oven, which Brian McCallum our bee keeper removed bare handed, that caught our attention. The next week we discovered two queen cells, too many for one hive. (pictured left: Queen cells) 

 

Brian carefully chiselled the cells off the frames. We listened to their distinct high pitch buzzing known as piping, and held them in our hands.

As we watched, one of the queens poked her tongue through a crack in the cell and the next thing we knew a new virgin queen crawled out. She was returned to the hive where she would battle it out with the other queen, the strongest would survive. (pictured right: Chiselling Queen Cells)

A few days later the bees were buzzing again. According to Brian this may have been the worker bees escorting the surviving virgin queen on her one mating flight. She mates 30 times carrying 100,000 eggs in her body, to be laid at different times throughout the season. This genius plan ensures that the bees in her colony are tuned into the various times different plants are producing pollen.

Virgin Queen - crawling out of the cell

Our "bee fest" coincided with the theme for April's Lunch and Learning sessions which were focused on bio-diversity. Children from nearby St Aloysius School joined representatives from the Kings Cross Construction companies Bam, Kier, Carillion and Balfour Beatty and business occupiers Zone and Argent. Over two sessions they learnt about flowers and bees.

They created a legacy through planting a bee-friendly garden in what will be Jamie Oliver’s new head office in the Fish and Coal Building.

To view a slideshow of pictures and writing by participants about their experience, simply click on one of the thumbnails in the gallery below: