ILLUSTRATED TALK

Keeping Honeybees in Oxleas Woods

Severndroog Castle
Castle Wood, Shooters Hill,  London  SE18 3RT

7:00 pm  Thursday, 26 May 2016

Oxleas Wood

Take a rough and ready box somewhat smaller than a tea chest, cut a slot in the bottom, suspend some wooden slats across the top and put a lid on it.  Put the box on some bricks with the entrance slot facing the morning sun, do this several times with similarly bodged-up boxes and you have created an Apiary of beehives.

Now comes the challenging part:  procure a colony of 5,000 or more  honeybees and transport these to your apiary – which makes them very angry – then somehow induce them to enter and take up residence in your makeshift  beehive, where they will produce the wax to draw out from your wooden slats the honeycomb in which to process and store the honey and pollen they collect on their busy comings and goings from the hive.  With luck and without much help from you, the bees within each hive will nurture their single Queen to lay thousand upon thousand of progeny so by mid-summer your colony of honeybees within each of your hives numbers  50,000, 60,000 or more, most  of which are female workers, with each of these closely related sisters wielding a powerful sting in the tip of her abdomen.

Then, as Autumn closes in, remove the lid of your hive and, amid the colony that is now abuzz with activity,  unashamedly plunder the 25 kilos or so of stored pure honey,  hopefully without invoking too much anger and retribution.

In essence this is the keeping of the honeybee Apis Mellifera.

Managing an apiary or even a single beehive colony of is a commitment that requires not only knowledge of the basics but also hands-on experience in handling and managing bee stocks.  The apiarist and beekeeper has to be prepared to counter a number of diseases and pests that threaten the wellbeing of the stocks; the bees themselves can be truculent and difficult to handle; robber bees from one hive may infiltrate another in the apiary; the single Queen at the head of a colony may go off the lay, producing no new offspring to replenish natural losses; and or suddenly the bees may swarm and depart the hive, thereafter making a beeline for a new and far flung nest site, taking with them much of the season’s honey stores.

John Large, the Oxleas Wood Apiary apiarist, will introduce the art and mystery of beekeeping, together with some of the known facts and science of A. Mellifera.  He will venture into some of the remaining mysteries about the anatomy of the individual bee and social behaviour of the bee colony, including the gaps in our knowledge and the enigmatic and sometimes perplexing traits of bee behaviour that persist several thousands years since man first endeavoured to domesticate these fascinating creatures.

Weather and seasonal development permitting, John Large will bring along an observation hive stocked with bees, so that the wonderful world of the honeybee can be witnessed at first-hand.  The fully illustrated presentation will include a question and answer session and, perhaps, close with a sweetener to those participating.

Reserve a place for this event with the Severndroog Castle Preservation Trust - ian.small@severndroogcastle.org.uk