Gwen Gets to Work

The Beekeeper

July 06, 2020 Gwen / Jemima Season 1 Episode 13
Gwen Gets to Work
The Beekeeper
Show Notes Transcript

Bzzzzzz! Is there such a thing as a King Bee? And why are those honey bees hanging off each other in a long chain?! Gwen got to work on one of the hottest days of the year, interviewing a Beekeeper about what she does all day at work.

Check out the video of Gwen's Beekeeping adventure on YouTube. You can see for yourself, take a look at the hives, spot the Queen Bee pottering about and laying her eggs! And watch how the honey is spun off the 'supers'.

The hives that Gwen visited belong to the Beekeeper herself and also Orwells, a super tasty restaurant not far from the hives. You can check out their Instagram or Facebook to see what they've been up to during the lockdown.

You can buy the delicious Henley Honey from them, or from Gabriel Machin butchers and if you go to our Instagram or Facebook before the end of July 2020 you can try and win a jar of the honey that Jemima extracted that day and we will post it to you!

I am a 7yr old. My name is Gwen Rose. I wanted to do this podcast so all the girls, boys and me could learn about what adults do all day. Visit our website for past episodes and to find out what's coming soon: https://gwengetstowork.com/

Produced by Enigma Records: https://enigmarecords.co.uk/

Support the show (https://www.gofundme.com/f/gwen-gets-to-work/)
Gwen :

Have you ever been asked, 'what do you want to be when you grow up'?

Gwen's Mum :

Gwen Gets To Work

Gwen :

I like talking to people and they like talking back to me. At least that's why I think. One day I asked my mum, "How do I know what I want to be when I grow up?" My mum said, if I interview people about like their jobs and things like that, I will find out. And, like, all the people who you are listening, you will find out too if you don't know. Last week, I went to visit some beehives on a really, really hot day. Here's the recording of that sticky encounter. We are just following the beekeeper to the hives, which is in Henley. We're driving down a country lane and it's very sunny.

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Jemima :

Right. Plenty of stuff in there. Just old wood.

Gwen :

How does the smoker calm the bees?

Jemima :

The theory is that they think their house is on fire. So they fill up on honey or nectar and it makes it much harder for them to sting. And they'll all go down and gorge themselves. That is the theory. I think that's, that's what we're taught. Right? I'm going to get my hive tools so I can open the hive without any problems. So what we're going to do is get our suits on, yeah? Bees don't also like getting trapped in sort of little bits, but I mean, I'm sure you'll be fine. I mean, if you get stung it's not like a really bad sting. It's like a quick prick because it's actually through fabric and stuff. So it's not really really awful. Well, you might think it's awful but...right, off we go then! So we're going to look at this little hive first, which was a swarm that came into my garden about a month ago. So when you come to a hive, you'll look at the hive, and you'll see, you know they're busy and you'll see which direction they're all flying off. They're all going off that way. So i'll work from this side.

Gwen :

Do your bees have names or?

Jemima :

No, there's too many. So this time of year, there's about 80,000 in a hive, and probably more in this one, because, so this is what you'd call the brood, this is where the queen and the bees the young bees live. And then they have this bit of, it's called a queen excluder, so the queen can't get to up into here and lay eggs. Because this is a was a swarm it didn't have any food. So this is a feeder that I've popped on top. So I feed them either honey or sugar syrup. So I'm gonna open this and some bees might fly out okay?

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Jemima :

Because it's sort of as if I'm attacking their house.

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Gwen :

So what does the queen look like?

Jemima :

Well, she looks like a larger bee. These are honey bees. So the only bees that make honey are honey bees. So I'm going to go through this and we're going to see if we can find her. It's called foundation and it's just a bit of wax that you put in and then they start building it out. They make wax in their wax glands, and they build it up.

Gwen :

So why do they have holes in?

Jemima :

They have eaten those holes because that's the where the wire is and they don't really like it that's making a mess of it. So i'll have to put a new one in. Let's hope they haven't done that to all of them.

Gwen :

It looks like there's a lot of bees on that one.

Jemima :

This is heavy. It's got lots of nectar in there. And it's quite heavy. You can hold it and you can see how heavy it is.

Gwen :

That's very heavy!

Jemima :

Heavy, isn't it. So that is all nectar in there. All that shiny, all that liquid in there is nectar and they fan it to reduce the water content and then it turns into honey and when it's honey, they cap it over and store it and we'll find some honey in here.

Gwen :

How do they fan it?

Jemima :

With their wings. So all of that is the honey. That's all capped honey. That's all delicious, honey. And that's where it's not capped.

Gwen :

There are a lot of bees on that side.

Jemima :

They're working very hard. So that's their stores. And then as you get further in I'm hopefully going to find the queen and some.....

Gwen :

Why is there a big lump on the end?

Jemima :

The reason is because they need more space. So they'll build wild comb, which is what this i, to make more space. I'm actually going to take it off. But if you come here, round here, there are little tiny eggs in there. And larvae. They're very calm. I mean, this is really really calm this hive. As it gets bigger and bigger, they get less. So white things sort of curled up in there.

Gwen :

Yeah!

Jemima :

Okay, so that's young bees that those that's the larva. So that's very good. That means the queen's there and everything is fine. And then this is what I have to do, every week, so I get out, so all of this is young bees. So there's all bees developing and all of this biscuity colour. This is honey. And this is young bees, and we'll try and find one that's just hatching. So all of this is for them. This is their house...

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Jemima :

All the honey in this box is for them. This is called a brood box. It's where all the brood is. Because first of all the little antennae come out.

Gwen :

Are they really small when they come out?

Jemima :

They are smaller and they're sort of a bit fluffy. And so for two or three days, the other bees feed them so the bees have, when when the bees hatch out they're fed and looked after. And they're fed what's called, it's a mixture of nectar and pollen. Then they have different duties. They start cleaning so they clean out the cells, they groom other bees, and then they become foragers, which is when they go out and collect honey, oh, collect nectar.

Gwen :

Where do you sell the honey?

Jemima :

I sell honey at our local butchers. I sell it at, um, there's a couple of shops in Henley, people come and knock on my door. So wherever I can really.

Gwen :

So is the queen bee like two times bigger than normal bees?

Jemima :

She's longer and she's a different shape.

Gwen :

Do they cap it so nobody can eat them?

Jemima :

They cap it so they develop, so they go from being that little white larvae and once it fills up, once the cell is full, the larvae can't get any bigger they cap it over and 12 days later it comes out as a, it goes from egg, ah, there's the queen.

Gwen :

Where?

Jemima :

Here.

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Unknown Speaker :

Right i'll get out of the sun. Can you see her?

Gwen :

Yeah, she's the one with the....

Jemima :

The long abdomen so she's wandering around she's looking for empty, no, sorry, she's there. She's laying an egg now. So she backs into a cell and lays an egg so she'll come out so she's a different colour and she's really long.

Gwen :

So does the queen always drop eggs?

Jemima :

She lays eggs in, yes, there we are, there's another one. So in the summer she lays 2000 eggs a day.

Gwen :

Is that the queen, can you get king bees?

Jemima :

No.

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Jemima :

So the only, there are many male bees, and I actually haven't seen any yet in this hive. They're always at the end of the brood box. And they are bigger and they don't sting. And all they do, their only purpose is to meet with the queen. So, for me as a beekeeper, it's good that I don't see many drones because it means that they don't want to swarm.

Gwen :

Why do bees, like, hang off, like stuck together?

Jemima :

Um, sometimes they hang like that because, they're when they make wax, they've got little wax glands, and they join them all together, and they join a chain and then they draw all the wax out. So that's probably why they're doing that. If it's really hot, they'll hang out the front in a chain.

Gwen :

Do you always get a queen bee in that box?

Jemima :

There will always hopefully be a queen in the colony because if there isn't, they won't survive. I mean, if you want to we'll go up to the shed and get a super and put one on top of here. Do you want to? I don't know, I don't know how busy you are. So we'll just leave this and we'll go up to that shed just there. They hopefully will, because I'm going to put foundation on them which is just like a sheet and they've got to work very hard to make lots and lots of wax to build so they can put nectar in. But we'll look at, we'll put that on there and we'll also look at that very big hive and you'll see some honey. So this land here is um, the people who were in the restaurant called Orwells just up the road. This is where they grew all their vegetables. So it's very nice for me to come up here and have them here and it helps pollinate all their stuff.

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Jemima :

This is a queen excluder, so you can carry that.

Gwen :

What do you do with a queen excluder?

Jemima :

This is to stop the queen going up into the supers which is where the honey is and you don't want it to be contaminated with eggs. Right. Yes, so I'm going to put this on top and they'll draw all this out and then they'll fill it with honey. But that is a lot of work for them, but I think they're, they should be okay, and they need some more space. That will be full of honey and full of bees. That hive there behind us is what we call a bait box so we've just put it there and are hoping that a swarm might come in and take up residence. Because it costs hundreds of pounds to get bees. It costs about 300 pounds to buy just five frames of bees.

Gwen's Mum :

So how many bees did you say were in there?

Jemima :

At the height of summer about 80,000, and then it goes down to about 20,000 in the winter. So we were going to try and find a male bee for you it's called a drone. So when it's really hot like this, I come out of here and I am soaking wet. It's jolly warm work.

Gwen :

So what do you normally do all day?

Jemima :

This is what I do all day. I've got about twenty hives that I go and look after. So at 9.30 this morning I was at somewhere looking off some bees and after this I'll be going off to do some more. So this, we put on like that, and the queen can't come up here. I just have to check she's not on here. And then we put this on, making sure we don't squash any bees. Now, probably when you've gone I will get some more syrup and I won't put any more syrup on it, but I'll just trickle a little bit in here so it makes the bees come up. Because otherwise they'll think 'well I'm not going up there, there's nothing for me'. On goes the lid. And I'll look at that again next week. They'll use, they'll fan if it's cold, hot, cold, you know, they can reduce the temperature, raise the temperature. So they're a bit like penguins in the winter. So the queen will be in the middle, and then they'll eat, they'll rotate, they'll move from the middle to the outside, so it'll always be the same temperature. So you could have snow on the ground here. And they'll always be a melted, you can see where the where the bees are, because they might be over here or over here, but there'll be a melted spot. They'll just keep it the same temperature. So, tomorrow, I'm going to take some honey, not from this hive, but from a different hive and spin it off at home. And I'll just give you a quick explanation of how I do that.

Gwen :

How do you do it? Right, so that super that we've just put on, on there, has just foundation, it was just wax. So they'll build it all out and it'll look like that. And these are all empty at the moment. And that's where they'll put all the honey. So I'll leave that like. They're making a bit of a mess of this one, which I don't really like. I'll find you some that's got nectar in it. That's where they've started drawing out that side. They've just got to finish off there. And then this is one that's full of honey. Actually, that's not very heavy. Let's find a full one. And you see how, what that weighs. Take that. Hmmmm.

Jemima :

So in there, there are ten of those. And so, um, this actually isn't even full. So each each box, actually I don't know what it is in kilos, weighs, so you get about 20 pounds of honey plus the box and that's heavy when you're lifting it up quite high.

Gwen :

So are there about like, um, thousands of bees in that?

Jemima :

Yes, there's probably only about, probably 20,000 in there, probably not even 20,000. But this will be full. Do you want to see if you can lift that?

Gwen :

Mmm, okaaay.

Jemima :

You want to go that side, go there, because it's got lips there. Now you see if you can lift that. They're heavy. So I'm going to put this back together again.

Gwen :

That actually might be it!

Gwen's Mum :

Amazing.

Jemima :

And there's three more over there that I've got to do.

Gwen :

So do you like the job? Or, but you do love it!

Jemima :

I do love it. So when I do my bees, I go into a complete daze. And all I'm doing is thinking about is my bees, not my washing or shopping or anything else. So I go into a trance and I peacefully go through them. And yes, I love it. I would spend all my time doing bees given the opportunity, but the rest of life gets in the way sometimes. Well especially when it's a lovely day, and everything's going according to plan.

Gwen :

Do they make more honey in summer or not?

Jemima :

Yes. So they only will make honey in the summer because what they do is they're collecting nectar and pollen from plants, from flowers, and there aren't any of those flowers around in the winter. So come September that's the end of it. Whatever honey is, i'll leave whatever September they just have whatever honey's left on there, and that's their food for the winter. And you have to make sure you leave enough food for them otherwise they die.

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Jemima :

Because they can't, there's nothing for them to eat. So whatever food there is in that hive, that's all they're gonna have for the winter. Urgh, nice and moist and sweaty. Haha. That's beekeeping for you.

Gwen :

Haha.

Jemima :

I've got a great bit paddling pool at home and then I just go and get in it, sometimes completely clothed.

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The next day...

Gwen :

What are you doing today?

Jemima :

What am I doing today? Today I'm extracting honey.

Gwen :

What is extracting honey?

Jemima :

Extracting honey is when I take the honey off the hives and take it out of the supers ready to go into jars.

Gwen :

What happens to the honey after this?

Jemima :

It will go into honey buckets and then eventually I will put it into jars, and then I'll sell it in shops or to friends. That's it.

Gwen :

How did you get into beekeeping?

Jemima :

My sister is a beekeeper down in Southampton. And I thought it seemed like quite a nice thing to do. So I went on a course at the Berkshire College of Agriculture and thought I just can't do this is too difficult. It takes too much time. And then Marcus, my husband bought me a beehive, which I just left in a box and there were no bees in it, and I didn't want to do it. And then the man who taught me died, and gave me some bees or left me some bees, so I had to do it. And I've loved it ever since. Um, but the other thing was that when I started beekeeping, a very kind, very old beekeeper took me under his wing, so I would go out with him, just follow him about and that's really how I learned about beekeeping. And he's still around, he's 96 now and still very knowledgeable but can't do beekeeping because it's very, very physically hard work. Very heavy work.

Gwen :

Like the supers, where they're very heavy.

Jemima :

They're very heavy. They were weigh about 35 pounds. I don't know what that is in kilos. But you can work that one out.

Gwen :

Like the actual like box that you put on top of the beehive. Like you did yesterday.

Jemima :

One of those?

Gwen :

Yeah.

Jemima :

Yeah, that's what we call a super, a honey super.

Gwen :

What if you want to go on holiday?

Jemima :

I won't go on holiday in the summer for more than a week. So beekeeping is from about March, April to September, and every week you need to go, every nine days you need to go and have a look at your bees. So I just don't go on holiday in the summer. And I love being around here in the summer.

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Jemima :

Just take these out. So these have been spun off. So just feel what that, just try, and see it's quite light, isn't it? Very light. So thse ones have been spun. So I'm putting them back in here. This takes hours and hours. And this one's been done. The, all of these have got to be spun. So these are what you saw yesterday piled up on that...so those are the supers. So..

Gwen :

It's quite heavy.

Jemima :

Let's find a good one. Yeah, so that's, you know what it felt like don't you So, what I do is I take off the wax using either a knife or, very quickly, a hot air blower. You can look in there. It's the extractor. Put them in like that. And put the lid on. Make sure the tap is off so we don't get honey everywhere, then turn it on!

Gwen :

[...]

Jemima :

The thing is because I only do this three times a year it's not like I can, I can't just keep, people say "oh you know you can make more honey", but I can't make honey. The bees make honey. And when the bees stop making honey there is no more honey. I'll leave that tap open for now. But honey flows quietly so you have to be really careful because you turn around and you've just got honey all over the floor. Because you can't hear it can you? So we'll just leave that, don't think that bucket will overflow.

Gwen :

Why is honey in supermarkets, um, cheap.

Jemima :

It's cheap because lots of it comes from abroad from China and from Eastern Europe and quite a lot of it will be adulterated with with sugar syrup. So that's why it's cheap.

Gwen :

We have your honey because it's the most yumminess.

Jemima :

Good. Well, I think it's wonderful stuff. I'm very proud of my honey.

Gwen :

Thank you for being my guest!

Jemima :

A pleasure. My pleasure.

Gwen :

Bye

Jemima :

Bye

Gwen :

We actually filmed our trip to the beehives. So you can see everything I saw that day, see the honey being spun, on the Gwen Gets To Work YouTube channel. Just search Gwen Gets To Work on YouTube, or click the link in the episode notes. It's really good. In next week's episode, we will hear from an epic, Everest-conquoring adventurer. She has climbed some of the world's most tallest mountains. It should be a pretty thrilling chat. So smash that subscribe button and tune in next Monday. Transcribed by https://otter.ai