Visit to West Sussex Beekeepers Association

Report by Sandra, photos by Tracy and Matthew

photo of group members being shown a comb covered in beesMany home educating families are interested in bees. Perhaps with a view to keeping our own hives or simply because bees are interesting and we all like honey. Honey bee numbers are declining due to disease and wet summers. Bees perform a vital role in nature. No bees would mean many flowers would not get pollinated and no bees means no honey.

Having done our bit by planting bee-friendly plants in the garden I thought it would be interesting to see a hive at close quarters.After some surfing around I discovered the Wisborough Green bee-keeping association which is based at Dounhurst Farm between Loxwood and Wisborough Green.

Roger Patterson, the President was very helpful when I contacted him about the possibilty for a visit. So on June 10th a group of parents and children met at the apiary. It was raining (it would be!) so we all huddled under cover in the wood shed and got into our protective gear. Roger and two of his helpers then gave us a short talk about bee-keeping and showed us parts of a hive and some combs and bee cells. The showers eased off and we followed our guides down to the clearing in the woods to see the hives. Each hive belongs to a member of the association.

photo of beesFirst we were shown a newly established hive and the bees, (in spite of the smoke) were a bit lively. The children were very good but I found myself retreating to the back of the group.

Next an older hive was opened and the bees were very docile and stayed on their combs. Tom, our guide, showed us the queen bee who was marked with a small dot. Queen bees are not much bigger than the rest of the hive members. He showed us how to pick up a bee without harming it and showed us the different cells. Some with young bee grubs in, some containing bee food and some in the process of forming new queens. These would later have to be removed or else the bees would swarm and half the hive disappear.

photo of honeycombFinally he showed us a complete comb, full of honey and coated with wax. It was ready to be 'spun' to extract the honey.

The guides were extremly informative and patient with our many questions and the visit was fascinating. The two hours passed extremly quickly and we came home with our heads 'buzzing' with bee facts and figures.

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