Blogs and News - St George's School, Edinburgh
I am delighted to bring you an update on ‘Honeycomb Cottage’, our very own St George’s Bee Hive. Aptly named by Joanna (P6X) from our Eco Day competition, Honeycomb Cottage is currently located at Red Hall Allotments and diligently looked after by our friend Peter. Peter has several other hives, but none so beautifully decorated as Honeycomb and it is no surprise that Queen Beetoria (named by Emily – P3Y) has chosen to take up residence.
Queen Beetoria moved in with her family (all 15,000 of them) two weeks ago on the 20th May and has since been making herself at home. Now that lockdown restrictions have eased, I was able to pop round to hers yesterday and see how she was getting on.
What a busy bee she has been! She has managed to organise her whole household with remarkable efficiency: everybody had been delegated jobs and they were all hard at work. Right from birth, the worker bee spends the first couple of days of its life as a cell cleaner. At three days old, she becomes a Nurse to the newborns and does this for about a week. She then spends the next few days making wax to build or repair pollen and egg cells before graduating onto honey sealing, drone feeding (these are the boys and they spend most of the time eating!), attending the Queen, egg moving, honeycomb building, pollen packing, crack sealing, mortuary working (to clear out any dead bees or failed larvae), water carrying, hive fanning (to regulate the temperature), entrance guarding (against enemies or impostors from other hives) and soldiering (to deal with any invaders). After about 3 days of all this, she is understandably rather tired, so she spends the last half of her life as a forager, collecting pollen. This is an equally exhausting job, flying up to 400 miles over her final 3 weeks, but at least there is less multitasking! She lives for a total of about 45 days.
Back to Honeycomb, there were a few boy drone bees about, but the workers weren’t letting them get in the way. Drones don’t have stingers and they don’t gather any nectar or pollen – their only real role is to mate with a new queen. In the winter the girls kick all the boys out of the hive because otherwise they would just sit there and eat all the honey!
At the end of my visit, I was very honoured to meet Queen Beetoria herself, who took a little while to find amongst all her relatives, but was eventually tracked down right in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the Cottage. She is much bigger than her sisters because she is fed with royal jelly all her life whereas the worker bees only get this for their first two days. Beetoria was busy getting on with her job of laying lots and lots of eggs - that would be about 2,000 a day! This is her sole job and is what she will do for the rest of her life. She can live for several years and even gets to decide which eggs she will turn into a boy or a girl!
So, Honeycomb Cottage is thriving nicely, and it was amazing to get a further insight into the workings of the colony. It was also incredibly exciting that – helped by the recent run of amazing weather – honey is already being made and stored! The combs will be built on over the next few months and once the cells are all sealed up, the honey can be extracted.
Get those jars ready!