Sunday the 12th May saw members of the bee team at Heron Hill primary school in Kendal host the first of the summer outdoor training meetings for Kendal bee keepers. The sun shone brightly as the children from the advanced team presented the golden rules of beekeeping to over 20 experienced bee keepers from the local area. The key message from the six children aged 9 -11 was 'love your bees' and this was most evident as the children carefully, confidently and skillfully carried out full inspections on 3 of the 5 hives currently in the school apiary. Peter Wright, committee member of Kendal bee keepers, said 'what a wonderful day with so many knowledgeable young children. I for one was very impressed'. We were so proud of our beekeeping children!
The 'Advanced & Junior Certificate children have been working really hard recently recycling some old brood boxes to make 'pollinator palaces' for solitary bees & 'bugs'
Once again, Mr Tett, our beekeeping buddy from Kendal beekeepers came along to help transform the old boxes into splendid bug hotels. The children braved cold weather and driving rain today to get them finished and planted up before our apiary day on Sunday with Kendal beekeepers.
After three years of school beekeeping, we know the Cumbrian weather is... well a bit 'temperamental!'
Today was no exception, the 'advanced' & Junior Certificate teams had planned to split one of our VERY full colonies. This means taking a frame of eggs, a frame of brood & one of stores, (along with a cup or two of nurse bees) putting them in a small 'nucleus' hive and allowing them to make a new Queen...
This has lots of advantages... it means if we miss a swarm, our wonderful 'Queens Genes' have not been entirely lost, as we have a 'daughter' establishing her own colony... it is also a method of 'swarm prevention' By reducing the bees in the hive, they have more space & are less likely to make swarm preparations. THAT IS THE THEORY!
But, as you will know from previous posts, bees only forage really above 12 degrees, so with today hovering around 9 degrees, it was too cold to open our hives, as it may have resulted in the brood getting chilled.
So, it was a good opportunity to catch up on essential jobs in the shed... super frames to be made... and the final preparations on our new pollinator hotel.
We are so proud of them all, such brilliant team work, getting on with it all independently and with amazing focus...
Goodness, what a busy session at today's Bee Club!
Half of the children went in to the hives for the first time, the other half were great working in teams to see who could find and put all the parts of a hive together the fastest! No mean feat as there was so much equipment for them to sort out. They then used their great DIY skills to put staples into each hive part which will allow us to identify which 'super' (the honey box) came from which hive. It also has the benefit of us being able to trace any equipment in the event of any serious diseases. The children did wonderfully at lighting the smokers for real and using them with respect and commonsense in the apiary, well done everyone!
It was an exciting day today, our new Bee Team started their practical work in the apiary!
After taking and passing our Heron Hill Beekeeping Course, the children are set for a busy summer season of beekeeping at school.
Today's session focused on that tricky skill of getting safely (and quickly) into our bee suits, gloves and gauntlets! The children went through the rules we follow in the apiary and had their first experience with the smokers, learning how to light it then pass it safely to their beekeeping buddy. As always, we were so impressed with everyone's knowledge and team work! Can't wait for next week!
Beekeepers use something called a 'Shook Swarm' to help reduce disease and pests in bee colonies. Basically, it is like a 'forced spring clean for bees!'
Many pests and diseases use the Brood combs (where the Queen lays her eggs and the baby bees are born) to multiply and live, so the idea of a Shook Swarm is to replace all the brood frames with new clean ones for the bees to use in a clean new hive... the plan being, all the pests such as Varroa are left behind!
Also, after each new bee emerges, the cell becomes very slightly smaller as she leaves behind her cocoon, after a few seasons, these smaller cells lead to smaller bees which are much less likely to winter well and resist disease.
The old frames, which sadly contain stores and brood, are dispatched quickly in a steamer... it is a very difficult thing to do, but the bees soon recover and this method of pest and disease control means we need to use less harmful chemicals on our bees.
The wonderful Kendal beekeepers yet again came to school today to help the Bee Team. This time to help dig over and prepare the ground for our new ‘wildflower pollinator patch’. They arrived armed with forks and rakes and along with the children and parents turned a rather compacted area of ‘spoil’ from the nursery extension into a well prepared seed bed for the children to sow our seeds this week.
It was brilliant to see everyone working so hard together and amazing to see how much we could achieve together in such a short time! ‘Wages’ were paid in the form of much deserved tea and cake! Grateful thanks to our Beekeeping buddies!
We will keep you posted of the progress of our patch, hopefully we will have something to show when the beekeepers come back in May for our Club Apiary day.
Bee Club were very fortunate to have Dr Piggot teaching them all about the '3 P's' today.
She talked about not just the important role our honey bees play in pollination, but all pollinators...
The children looked at why our bees collect pollen, how they use it and what is 'in it' for the flowers! We explored the various methods flowers use to attract our bees and other pollinators, sight, smell, taste and shape... we then had a go at staining our own pollen, making up slides to look at under the microscope. The team even educated their families, showing them 'what bees see' using UV microscopes, brilliant!
With the weather feeling 'less than springy' today, the Bee Team went through the 'Golden Rules' of hive inspections, to make sure we are ready for action when the weather improves.
At every inspection good beekeepers monitor their bees and the state of the hive to ensure all is well, taking into consideration things like the time of year and the weather, which all have an impact on our bees. Today we thought about...
I never fail to be impressed with the capacity to learn and insightful questions from our Bee Club children.
Today we were in the classroom looking at the importance of recognising healthy brood in the hive. 'C-shaped, curly, pearly, shiny white and segmented, floating on a pool of brood food' they were all shouting by the end of the session! We used Digestive biscuits to demonstrate normal worker cappings, a good way to remember how they should look... dry, biscuit coloured, even and slightly rounded. Knowing what is normal, allows beekeepers to recognise when things may be going wrong in a hive. The children thought that beekeepers are like detectives... which is a really good way of thinking about managing our hives, spotting the clues so we can help our bees in good time.
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Heron Hill Primary School