A month on since Nicola tucked the bees into bed ready for the winter months, I started to consider what this break means for our bees. What does it really take to be a part of a hive and produce that delicious honey we are all so grateful for?
"For so work the honeybees, creatures that by a rule in nature teach the act of order to a peopled kingdom"
Reading through various bee-related articles, it did occur to me that maybe Shakespeare has hit the nail on the head. Order lies at the heart of the hive; each bee appointed a specific role and responsibility categorised by age and gender.
Starting at the top there is the Queen, in Beeble terms our larger bottles of Honey Liqueur, but in the hives slightly more complex. The Queen is the mother of the hive and the only fertile female in the whole colony. She is crowned purely by luck of being laid in a special cell designed for raising queens (a bee palace perhaps?). Fed ‘royal jelly’, which contains more honey and pollen than normal jelly, she grows larger than her non-royal counterparts before assuming her position on the throne.
Moving down a Beeble-sized-bottle, we get to the Drones. The bachelors of the hive: their one and only task is to mate with the Queen. Beyond this they are pretty useless. Incapable of feeding themselves, they rely on the workers to be their personal chefs/waiters. Although it does sound like they live the life of Riley, this time of year is not a good time to be a drone. As it gets colder and honey becomes more precious, the ‘lazy boys’ are often thrown onto the streets where they will sadly, but inevitably, end up in bee heaven.
The final part of the bee colony machine are the Workers, the real ‘busy bees’ of the colony. All worker bees are female, however unlike the queen, they aren’t able to produce fertilised eggs. Rather they spend their life working (hence the name) changing roles as they grow older. These responsibilities can range from being cleaners to guards, nurses to builders, or undertakers to temperature controllers, before reaching their final occupation as a forager in the field.
Shakespeare was right about bees in some ways. We, the people, have a lot to learn from these tiny but incredible creatures. Although it might sound cheesy, bee colonies prove that teamwork really does make the dreamwork (especially in the case of our Honey Whisky and Vodka…)!
Written by Eleanor