Page 22 - HGS Suburb News 147 - September2021
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S U B U R B            Bees are the batteries of orchards,

                                gardens, guard them (Carol Ann Duffy)

                                MARIE-CHRISTINE O’CALLAGHAN                             Since 1990, the UK has lost 13 species of bees and a further 35 are
                                                                                     considered under threat of extinction. Bees face may threats such as
                                  ong ago, the tears of Ra, the Egyptian sun god, fell to earth and were  habitat loss, climate change, toxic pesticides and disease and there is
                                    transformed into bees who then provided Ra’s followers with liquid  evidence to show that these threats work in combination. There are an
                                L gold – honey. We still enjoy honey today in all its delightful  estimated 24 million gardens in the UK. The Wildlife Trusts has
                                varieties. The different flavours whether acacia, clover or heather (to  suggestions on its website on how to make these gardens more bee
                                name but a few) depend on the type of flower the nectar is collected  friendly
                                from. As the bees collect nectar, pollen gets stuck on their feet and  Perhaps if we save the bees Ra will not have cried in vain.
                                because they fly from flower to flower, they cause pollination. One
                                third of everything we eat depends on the presence of bees, whether
                                we eat it like tomatoes or apples or whether it is the food farmers feed
                                to their livestock. A lack of pollination therefore impacts, directly or
                                indirectly, on the availability of meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts and, of
                                course, flowers.
                                   One aspect of bee behaviour that puzzled biologists is how they
                                manage quite complicated tasks with their limited brainpower. They
                                discovered that bees use something called a ‘waggle dance’ to
                                communicate the directions and energy required to fly to food sources.
                                The direction of the food source is indicated by the direction the dancer
                                faces, energy expenditure (or distance) is indicated by the length of
                                time it takes to make one circuit of the dance. Their communication
                                skills don’t end there. Honey bees use a rich repertoire of vibrational
                                signals to send messages, including a ‘get to work’ signal, a request for
                                grooming and even an expression of surprise.
                                   These skills evolved because honey bees are social insects that live
                                in colonies which have a single queen, hundreds of male drones and
                                20,000 to 80,000 female worker bees. Each colony also has developing
                                eggs, larvae and pupae.
                                   Honey bees swarm as a result of overcrowding within a hive. An old
                                honey bee queen will leave the hive with about half of the worker bees,
                                while a new queen remains in the old hive with the rest of the workers.
                                Swarming honey bees will fly, and then cluster on shrubs and tree
                                branches. The clusters rest there for several hours to a few days,
                                depending on the amount of time needed to search for a new nesting
                                site. When a scout honey bee locates a good location for the new
                                colony, the cluster immediately flies to the new site.
                                   A swarm of bees is not normally dangerous but it will attack if
                                provoked because workers will protect their queen. Should a swarm of
                                bees appear in your garden, it is best to contact a local beekeeper who
                                will gather the swarm and relocate it.                                                    Photo: Sandy Millar

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