There was a huge buzz(!) in the room at our June meeting as we welcomed the very knowledgeable and enthusiastic Stephen Poyser from the Cambridgeshire Beekeepers’ Association. But before we tell you what we learnt about honey bees there were some exciting updates from our committee…
Helen filled us in on her visit with Kathy to the Buckingham Palace Centenary Garden Party. She’s written a fantastic blog post all about the day – do take a look. You’ll learn how famous the Cambridge Ladybirds have become, who mooned at the palace, and you’ll find out the secret added ingredient for a truly royal cucumber sandwich.
We were delighted to see that Sophie had brought in the full 48m of decorated bunting showing The Climate Coalition Speak Up Lobby just what we want to protect from climate change. After the Big Sew Up last week (well done ladies!) we saw the flags brought together in all their glory – decorated by our very own Ladybirds, sister WIs, and by visitors to our hugely successful 1940s- themed stall at the recent Strawberry Fair (there’s another great blog post about this, or why not check us out on the Cambridge News website – we’re famous don’t you know?!). Speaking of the Strawberry Fair we were thrilled to hear that we made a fantastic £365 on the day, our biggest fundraising total so far. As a result of this and other fundraising efforts we were told the exciting news that our members will have the chance to apply for one of five £100 bursaries to go towards educational courses. Not content with sharing the fruits of our labour amongst the Ladybirds we have also been pushing forward recently with our plan to choose a ‘Charity of the Year’. June’s meeting saw the official vote and we now look forward to supporting Cambridge Women’s Aid over the coming year.
And now, back to the bees! Well, it would take me all night to tell you everything we learnt. Stephen was a real fountain of knowledge and the topic was so interesting, even more so because of its relevance to the WI’s SOS for Honeybees campaign. We found out that honey bees are incredibly clever! The worker bees produce wax through their abdominal glands and use it to make cells for honey storage. These are made to exact measurements and the cells sit at just the right angle so that the nectar won’t drip out. Worker bees communicate using chemicals, scent, vibration and noise, and even tell each other where to find nectar by doing a waggle dance in a ‘d’ shape. The angle of the straight line to vertical indicates the angle the bees need to fly relative to the sun, and the length of the dance indicates distance. How clever! Sadly bees don’t die of old age but when their wings wear out (cue lots of sad moans). But we were soon laughing again with the revelation that when drones mate with a virgin queen their genitalia explode and they die, leaving the queen to carry their genitalia back to her hive!
Would you like to help honey bees thrive? Stephen’s two top tips are:
Make a hole in the base of a box or find a flowerpot with a hole in the bottom. Turn it upside down and put some moss inside – this will make a good nest for bees.
If the bees seem to like a certain flower in your garden, plant more of it! You can find a list of bee-friendly plants on the RHS website (www.rhs.org.uk) by searching for ‘Perfect for Pollinators’.
Phew! This is a busy and exciting time for the Ladybirds. We’re looking forward to taking things a little more easy in July as we dabble with a bit of yoga. Don’t forget to bring a mat (or a towel, if you don’t have one). And breathe…!!