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Colin's Buzzing With Love for Bees

Author: Haley Storey Published: 19th March 2017 19:27

When Colin Younger found wild bees in his roof, instead of being horrified, he decided to get his own hive.

Now his Southsea neighbours are enjoying the benefits with an abundance of flowers and their best crop of fruit trees last year.

As the only beekeeper on Portsea Island, Colin told AboutMyArea how he got into his unusual hobby: "I had some bumble bees in the eves of my roof and I researched them and found out they were wild bees. I told some people at work and someone said they kept honey bees. I found it really interesting because the bee is a complex little beast."

Colin's interest led him to taking a British Beekeeper course. He said, "It got me hooked completely. It was so interesting.

Not long after, Colin was given his first bees and once they started producing honey, he took some of it to the neighbours to explain about the new residents. "One of the things that I was concerned about was that having bees in an urban area is a bit of a worry normally for people as they don't like little buzzy things. I put the hive in a place that can't be seen and as bees always fly in a straight line, I've put it somewhere where they won't be flying over fences and between gardens and bothering people. They just go straight for what they want. 

"When I took some honey to the neighbours, the reaction I got from most people was that they were really pleased and were going to be planting bee-friendly plants. They had seen the bees coming along and having a go at their flowers and other plants, making them more healthy and vigorous."

Many people are aware that the bee population is on the decline. Colin explained the problems. "Bees are in the news an awful lot. There are a couple of things that cause them problems. One is a mite called varroa which latches on to the bee and sucks out the blood from it and makes it very weak. There is another thing called colony collapse  where for some reason the bees decide they don't want to live there any more. We don't know why at the moment. The bees all decide they are going to go away and most of the hive disappears leaving the queen and about ten bees. This isn't enough to sustain the hive and they die."

Colin plans to get another hive and eventually sell his honey - he says you can get about 40 litres from one hive - as well as other products such as wax, propolis which is used to treat some medical conditions and royal jelly. 

The bees were pretty quiet during our visit with one or two buzzing around the outside of the hive. Colin said, "Round about now, what's happening is that the bees are waking up. The queen is laying lots and lots of eggs in the hive ready to build up the colony for spring. What happens in winter is that they die back to be able to conserve the food supplies within the hive and then build the colony back up. At the moment, there are around 10k bees in the hive and that will gradually build up until round about April which will make around 50-60k bees within the hive."

The queen's job is to lay eggs and populate the hive with as many bees as possible but the other bees have lots of other jobs to keep the hive ticking along. Colin explained, "There are attendant bees which look after the queen and bring her food. There are housekeeping bees which keep the hive tidy. Guard bees protect the hive and there are undertaker bees which take away the dead bodies. The whole idea of that co-operation and just doing things for what they are trying to achieve -  to live - is actually quite fascinating. Their whole purpose in life is to  look after the whole colony. They work as a whole collective, not as individuals."

Keeping bees is not without its risk though and Colin has been on the wrong side of them a few times. 

"The bees are usually pretty cool about everything", Colin explained. "You could stand right outside the hive and they wouldn't bother you. It's only when you go into the hive that they start getting a bit defensive. It would be like someone coming into your lounge, deciding to move your furniture around and looking down the side of the cushions for change. You wouldn't like it. You would react to it and that's what they would do."

Colin recalls the time that he left part of the collar of his protective clothing undone. He said, "A bee managed to get inside and I stood there while a bee floated up towards my eyes and stung my eyebrow. My eye swelled up completely.

"I see getting stung as a bit of a failure. I'm either annoying them too much or not taking enough care. If they are getting really angry it's a case of 'back out' as they're really busy. At certain times of the year they are a little bit more intense and other times they are totally indifferent even if you go in the hive.

"When a bee stings, they die. It's a committment but they exist for the whole hive so them giving themselves away like that is not their consideration. They are not considering themselves."

If you are interested in following the progress of Colin's bees you can watch them on a live weblink here: https://video.nest.com/live/z1h31t881u. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Fliesbees.

 

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