Busy, brilliant bees

In the intricate web of nature’s tapestry, every thread plays a vital role in maintaining balance and ensuring the survival of ecosystems. Among these threads, pollinators hold a particularly crucial position, and bees stand out as one of the most prolific and efficient pollinators.

In recent years, the concept of introducing apiaries—collections of beehives—to agricultural landscapes has gained momentum, offering an abundance of benefits for both crops and the environment. At Earth Trust farm, with support from the Oxfordshire Beekeepers Association, we are exploring how this strategic integration can significantly enhance agricultural productivity, improving crop yield, and biodiversity conservation. You can read more about it on our project page.

A year in the life of a busy bee…

June is the busiest time of year for bees, with the Queen laying at her greatest rate, in excess of 1,000 eggs per day. These are “summer honey bees”, which have a maximum lifespan of six weeks. The hives are expanding so that they are at a maximum in the summer months to take advantage of all the nectar and pollen, to build up honey reserves to feed them through the winter.

The bees search out hawthorn and horse chestnut blossom in the local area, sometimes travelling as far as 5 miles. Field beans, lime trees and willow herb are the next great harvest for them before they move into the brambles, clover and other summer flowers which start in July.

Did you know…Bees can fly at a speed of up to 15 miles per hour!

During the autumn months, the Queen produces “winter honey bees” – these new worker bees can live for up to 6 months and essentially replace the warm-weather worker bees. They start to put on as much weight as they can to make sure they stay warm during the cold weather (they even have a fat-producing gene that they switch on).

As the temperature drops outside, the colony begins to move upward in the hive to where it is warmest, and cluster around the Queen to keep her warm. As spring arrives, the queen’s mating and egg production season begin again.

Learn more about bees at the Oxfordshire BeeKeepers Association.

honeybee cluster