Pet of the week: The bee


What's the buzz? This summer, if you want to get a low-maintenance "pet" with a free spirit who won't constantly be craving affection, then you need to start considering taking up beekeeping. Natural colonies in the wild have been all but wiped out, and whole species are under attack from a mite with a name more becoming of a cartoon villain – the Varroa Mite. Add to this the allegedly harmful effects of pesticides used in intensive farming, which get fed back into the hives, and it is easy to see how the bee population has been whittled away. It is only thanks to the efforts of beekeepers around the country that we have any bees in Britain at all. A sobering thought.

So, how can we help? Bees form such a vital link in the food chain, that it seems absurd not to get involved. The best thing to do would be to start by learning how to keep bees and eventually acquire a colony of bees that are happy to go out pollinating all day and make honey. But I realise that this does not seem practical for many urban dwellers. Having said this, we should all take heart from Steve Benbow of the London Honey Company (londonhoneycompany.co.uk) who has devoted his time to bees and honey production in the capital. He produces honey for Fortnum & Mason and has set up a colony on the roof of the Piccadilly emporium (you can follow the hive's progress and watch more "Bee" movies at his website).

Fascinating creatures, aren't they? The caste system that has evolved within the hive is nothing short of mind-boggling. The single queen develops from a few of the many thousand female larvae that may exist in a large colony. Natural selection determines which of these queens is to be the new heir to the throne when the old queen gets tired of opening hospital wings and knighting rock stars. The larva is fed on copious amounts of royal jelly, whereupon she reaches sexual maturity and produces millions of eggs which keep the colony alive. And so on. It is the job of the male simply to mate with the queen bee then, in a move that would no doubt have cheered Andrea Dworkin, to get chased away from the colony to die in exile having served their purpose.

What else? According to Dr Ivor Davis, advisor to the British Beekeepers' Association, they have amazing navigational instincts – once they have found a food source, they relay this to other bees by performing a "waggle dance" which telegraphs its co-ordinates. Oh, and they are amazingly fuel-efficient; a bee could fly round the world on just one ounce of honey. Fact.

And what's the difference between a bumble bee and a honey bee? Bumble bees – the plumper, furry ones – belong to a colony that only survives one summer, then dies, leaving just a few queens to hibernate throughout winter before emerging to build up new colonies. Honey bee colonies can live for many years. They spend the summer making honey to provide them with enough food to last the winter. According to Dr Davis, when honey is harvested from a hive, humans take about 20 per cent of their annual haul, so there's plenty left for the bees.

So how can we best encourage bees into our lives? By planting single-flowering plants and vegetables – alliums, all types of mint, beans and flowering herbs. Daisy-shaped flowers such as asters and sunflowers, also tall plants – hollyhocks, larkspur and foxgloves.

How do I get hold of a bee? Visit britishbee.org.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

RE Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Teacher of Religious Education ...

A Level Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: A Level Chemistry Teacher - Humb...

NQT Secondary Teachers

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is actively r...

ICT Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ICT Teacher - Scunthorpe This r...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence