Friday, 17 June 2011

Guided Bee Walk, Sunday 12th June 2011 by Carl Ashcroft

Many thanks to all of the Friends of Chorlton Meadows who in a collective act of optimism braved the torrential rain to take part in the guided bee walk on Sunday 12th June 2011.

While unfortunately not a bee was seen on the walk due to the bad weather, a lively discussion took place covering many aspects of bees, including their anatomy and form, life-cycles and behaviour. As a result, walk attendees should now be able to answer the following questions:

1. Do bumblebees nest above or below ground?
2. How many common bumble species are there locally?
3. Do bumblebee colonies in Britain over-winter (generally speaking)?
4. How many bees might you find in a bumblebee nest?
5. What are the benefits of swarming to the honeybee?
6. What are the costs of swarming to the beekeeper?1
7. What is Varroa destructor?
8. What is propilis?
9. What three things do honeybees collect from plants and why?
10. How many species of bumblebee currently are to be found in Briain?

Some walk attendees asked about books on bees. The following, for me, are the ones which stand out as good, and would certainly provide answers to the above questions.

Benton, T., 2006, Bumblebees: the natural history and identification of the species found in Britain, Collins, London.

This is part of the Collins New Naturalist Series. It is probably the best book general book on bumblebees found in Britain that there is. As with all New Naturalist books, it is aimed at the informed amateur. It also includes robust and thorough taxonomic keys for males, workers and queens for all taxa. Not cheap, probably around £20 for the paperback, but worth it.

Goulson, D., 2003, Bumblebees: behaviour and biology, Oxford University Press.

This is a 235 page literature review of scientific publications covering most aspects of bumblebee behaviour and biology compiled by the country’s leading bumblebee academic.

Hooper, T., 1997, Guide to Bees and Honey, 4th edition, Master House, Regent Publishing Services, China.

This for me is the beekeeper’s bible. If you want to be a beekeeper buy this. Otherwise, it is probably not for you. It is a technical manual.

Intenthron, M. & Gerrand, J, 1999., Making Nests for Bumblebees: a way to save an endangered species, International Bee Research Association, Cardiff.

A little pamphlet which shows you how to make nests for bumblebees.

Carl Ashcroft, June 2011


We may not have seen any bees on the day of the walk but a couple of days later local resident, Mark Chamberlain, e-mailed me to report that he had spotted a swarm of honey bees in a Horse Chestnut tree on The Meade in Chorltonville. He asked me if I knew of a local bee expert - and, naturally, I thought of Carl and gave his e-mail address to Mark. Carl had had little experience of dealing with swarms himself but knew of an expert from North Manchester who came down and sorted it out. We don't know what happened next but perhaps the story will emerge in time (?) Mark took a photograph of the swarm the swarm (see lower picture above).

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