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Wild Life Leaflet
Vipers Bugloss
Egyptian geese
Pine Martin
Colney Nature Watch
A series of articles on the wild life in London Colney

Bee keeping has been done for over five thousand years. Most British honey bees are descended from Italian ones imported long ago. Honey bees are perfectly capable of living independantly, establishing hives in tree hollows, or secluded parts of buildings. However most honey bees are owned by people, although the bees probably do not know this!
Commercial honey producers provide wooden hives for their bees, and as part of their work, they take their hives to orchards, where the bees seek nectar, pollen, resin aod water for the hive. During the foraging in fruit blossom they transfer pollen from one flower to another, ensuring the next generation of fruit will appear. Bees will forage up to two miles from their hive, and after they've returned to the hive, and disgorged the produce they collected will do a dance which tells the other bees how far to fly for the produce, and also the direction relative to the sun.
The queen bee spends most of her time laying eggs. She is brought food by the worker bees, and as long as she lays eggs - they will feed her. After five years, when she is a bit past it - the worker bees feed special royal jelly to some of the bee grubs, who in turn-become queen bees. The first young queen bee to hatch kills any other queens who are almost ready to hatch and also the old queen bee. After that she goes on her nuptial flight. Any male honey bees that are around will compete to mate with her. From this multiple mating, she will be fertile for the rest of her life. She either returns to the old nest, or seeks a new nesting site, with a small cohort of worker bees. They will over winter and come the spring, they will start building the nest and a new colony.
Bees have many enemies, who either want to eat them or their honey. Springtime in Spain, when the bees are still a bit dozey, bee keepers find their hives raided by bears. Springtime in Britain, bee keepers find woodpeckers breaking into hives, to steal the grubs. Another species - cuckoo bees lay their eggs in honey bee hives, so the honey bees bring up their offspring. Hornets also are very partial to honey bee grubs. Bees can cope with a lone hornet. They hug it, so its body over-heats, and the hornet dies. But a large swarm of hornets can destroy a bee colony. The most serious pest to British bees is the varoa mite. It lives on bees, making it harder for them to fly, and brings all sorts of germs into the hive, which kill bees.
Bees can give a nasty sting. They do not do this lightly. To produce the cocktail of proteins that make up the sting needs energy they'd prefer to use elsewhere. Bees can sting an invading caterpillar, and remove the sting from its thin skin without hurting themselves. But when they sting a person, the barb at the tip of the sting remains embedded, and when the bee flies away, it leaves its sting and part of its stomach behind - and it soon dies. There are eighteen species of bumble bee in the UK, and when you see them foraging, you can see the orange bags on their legs, holding nectar. No one keeps bumble bees commercially, because bumble bee nests usually only contain 150 bees, whereas a normal bee hive will contain up to 50,000 inhabitants - most of whose life's work is to gather loads of nectar and other materials, to feed the next generation of bees.
As you wander the super market shelves and see the different honeys from all over the world, give thanks to the people who care for the honey bee and see that it thrives. Also, remember to give thanks to the honey bee! Remember, before sugar was invented, the only way of sweetening food was to use honey.