Monday, 5 February 2018

Bee Guardians

We are passionate about bees at Wicor Primary.  Not only do we have four hives of honey bees, but we have just become bee guardians too with bees arriving in the post (much to the curiosity of Mrs Grist in the office)……

It all started about a year ago when we listened to an assembly by our Headteacher Mr Wildman.  He told us all about the plight of bees and that we needed to do something to help.  After a bit of research we found out about solitary bees.  We were intrigued to find out that they don’t sting and that they live alone.  We also found out about how important they are when it comes to pollination.  At around the same time our teachers heard about a scheme to become ‘Bee Guardians’ for red mason bees and so we applied.  The red mason bee (Osmia bicornis), is an endangered native solitary bee, that doesn’t produce honey but which are really good pollinators.   This bee doesn’t have any pollen sacs, like our honey bees, instead the pollen gets stuck to the furry underside of its body and transferred to other plants that way.  It also simply loves fruit trees – which is why we placed the bee home by the raspberries and apple trees.  Hopefully, we will get a really good crop again this year.  Through the post, arrived the bee home with a letter telling us when, how and where to construct it.  We had a couple of months before it was needed so it was tucked away ready. 

Then last Friday a tube arrived in the post with a letter telling us there were ‘live animals’ inside.  A little bit of cracking could be heard from the tube so we thought the bee home had better be constructed and the bees deposited inside.  The home was placed in our allotment, right next to the raspberry canes and just a short flight to our heritage orchard.  Then the pupating bees were placed inside the home.  When the weather warms up the bees will emerge from the tubes and settle into the garden.  The instructions with the bees told us that they will spend about two weeks settling into their new territories and mating before pollinating.  The pollen the bees collect gets packed into individual cells which are made of mud, so it is really important to have damp soil in a garden if they are to survive.  This is great news as it means we have to make sure there is always a muddy puddle near the bee home.  Once the cell is packed with pollen, the female will lay an egg in each cell, seal it with mud and then go on to make another cell.  The tubes are completely filled with eggs, with the females in the middle of the tube and the males at either end so the males emerge first in spring.  They are the only bees legally allowed to be kept on allotments because they do not sting so they are fantastic for our school.  In September we will be sending the filled tubes back to the Bee Guardian company who will overwinter them and keep the bees healthy.  The brilliant bit is that next spring we will get a fresh batch of tubes and some more cocoons so we can keep helping the bees year after year.  What’s not to love about that?    

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Bees are Back in Town

The Bees have spent the winter in their hives clustered together to keep warm.
They eat the honey that they have spent all summer making which gives them the energy to generate warmth, and they will do this to keep the very centre of the cluster a nice 32 degrees celsius all winter long.
In the middle of this warm cluster the Queen is kept warm and fed, and as the spring approaches she will begin to lay a small number of eggs, to replace the winter bees that will start dying off with spring bees needed to start the colony expansion when spring comes.
Whenever the outside temperature is above 10 degrees Celsius the worker bees will be able to leave the hive to do some outside chores, they are:
·         Going to the toilet, because they won’t do that inside the hive no matter how long they have to stay in, they are very hygienic.
·         Collecting water, to reconstitute honey back into a more nectar like substance that is easier to feed on.
·         Collect any available pollen to feed the new larvae, pollen being a protein source that is need to help them grow.
Soon, when the outside temperature is regularly above 13-14 degrees celsius, I will do the first inspection of the year to see how they are getting on.
This is a tense moment for me, did they have enough food to survive? Was the varroa population reduced to a tolerable level? Have they survived the winter?
Also it is the best time of the year, as I get to see them again after a long winter of needing to leave them alone to keep warm, I have missed them very much!

B Wing

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Instructions for Observing Bees by Ruby Ogden 3M

What you need:
·         A bee suit with hood and long gloves
·         A bee keeper or other adult
·         A pair of wellies
·         A smoke gun
Safety Tips:
·         Don’t be scared
·         Move around slowly
·         If the bees rest on you don’t flap your arms or they will fly away
1.      First, stand quietly outside the apiary without making any loud noises.
2.      Next, sit carefully on the log and take off your shoes.
3.      After, step slowly into your bee suit.
4.      Then pull your suit up and put your arm into the sleeve.

5.      Next you need to put your long gloves on and make sure that they are on top of your sleeves.
6.      Then pull your hood up and zip it up, but make sure your hair is out of your face and in the hood.
7.      Put your wellie boots on and wait for an adult to come.
8.      When you enter the apiary, you need to put your hands behind your back so the bees don’t get scared.
9.      After you come out make sure you have no bees on you. 

3M with the Bees on Autumn Grounds Day

3M were very busy during our Autumn Grounds Day!  We had the wonderful opportunity of visiting our very own bee hives, with a Bee Keeper.  Not only did we visit the apiary, but we actually got the chance to dress in our very own bee suits and study the hives.  We were so intrigued by our bees, that we wanted to find out more about these incredible creatures. 

Kitting up to study the bees

We learned about how to write effective instructions to explain how to observe our bees and we started to research about these insects to answer our enquiry question, 'Why do we need bees?'
We learned that there are far more to bees meets the eye.  Without these creatures, not only would there be far fewer wild flowers and plants, but the world’s food production would also change radically.  Certain foods, such as almonds, blueberries and tomatoes, rely solely on bees for pollination and a world without tomato pizza would be a very sad place!
During October of this year, America placed bees on the Endangered Species list for the first time ever, which saddened us deeply.  Many of us didn’t realise just how important bees are to our world and if we don’t act now, our world will be a far less colourful place to live.
Ready to enter the apiary



Sunday, 22 May 2016

Bee exploration

Today was an exciting day - I was at last going to get to go into the apiary and see the bees.  They are now awake and busy after the winter, so I was going to see some action.

Mr Warren inspects our hives weekly, and I met him there to find out for myself what happens.  The colony within the observation hive inside the shed is working really well and the queen is busy laying eggs; she is a young queen so full of vigour.  The hive outside has a queen which is 3 years old and starting to slow down, but the colony is still very healthy.
This is the entrance to the indoor hive.  A small hole within the apiary enclosure. The white plate and landing zone are to guide the bees, and enable them to find the entrance on a large blank shed side.
After donning the bee suit in I went while Mr Warren opened the hives and checked the slides.  Each showed a selection of activities - from larvae to honey, drone cells to nectar.  It was fascinating to watch the bees making a bee line (yes an actual bee line) from the apiary and over the side gate to the nearest source of nectar which we think is a line of horse chestnuts.  And that leads me into the different colours of pollen in the sacs.  We spotted bright yellows, greens and one bee with dark red pollen sacs.  Fascinating.

The bees were so gentle and docile, taking no notice of us at all as they were busy.  It was such a privilege today to see them at their work.  I'm quite envious of the Year 4 children who will soon be starting an enquiry on the different colours of pollen and where the bees might be sourcing it.

The way into the indoor hive is through this channel - the entrance to which is a small hole on the outside but within the enclosure.
The top of our observation hive
Our fabulous observation hive.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Poached eggs take 2

Our hens produce lovely fresh eggs and up until this moment the thought of enjoying a poached egg at school for breakfast had escaped me.  Then someone mentioned eggs benedict...
Cue Mrs Nash who explained that her husband cooked poached eggs using a cup and microwave.  Suddenly the possibility of a poached egg for breakfast seemed to be a reality.
2 minutes later, the ping of the microwave signalled the moment life was about to change forever at Wicor.

Behold a poached egg and tasty it was too.

The first Wicor poached egg in breakfast club....yum!
Mark Wildman

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Early Nectar

Our mild weather has meant that we have seen a greater number of bees about. At Wicor we have carefully planted a wide variety of plants that flower through some of the darker months! This has provided our own bees with a good supply of much needed nectar.
Helleborus odorus
                                                Narcissus pseudonarcissus
Rosmarinus officinalis
Mahonia japonica