Mickleton Gardening Club’s first meeting of the year on 15th January hosted one of the best speakers we have had in a long time. An invigorating start to the New Year! Chris Wells, a Master Beekeeper from ‘Cotswold Bees’, transfixed all present with a factual, quickly paced and excellent illustrated talk. He could answer any of the questions thrown his way, during and after his presentation, deftly and authoritatively. His humour produced smiles all round. ‘Cotswold Bees’ has 120 hives (over 8 million bees) spread over the North Cotswolds from Mickleton, Chipping Campden and Chipping Norton to Burford and Guiting Power, including at Adam Henson’s farm near Snowshill. This is to try to ensure a wide variety of pollen all year round although the company does pay some farmers to grow certain winter crops. Recent climate changes mean that some crops can’t be planted due to wet soils and others aren’t producing pollen. Even so, the bees are staying active as it’s warmer. Usually a hive has about 60,000 bees and only 10 to 12,000 in winter, but this winter many more are staying alive. Normally bee farmers only harvest surplus honey, leaving enough to see the bees through the winter. Now they need to leave 60 to 70 lb of honey to keep the bees going through that season. DEFRA doesn’t regard workers like Chris as farmers, but they ARE as they have to visit hives at least once a week and harvest and care for their ‘crops’ like other farmers do. There have been bee keepers for about 4,000 years and the Egyptians revered their bees. They called the biggest bee a ‘king’ until they realised that ‘he’ was laying the eggs, so changed the name to ‘queen’, even though this particular bee is not a ‘boss’ in any way. Her function is to lay 15,000 to 20,000 eggs a day. There is an international marking convention where queens are marked with a blob of water-based marker. Once they have mated with a drone, who only has 3 weeks of his life to mate or he dies, he can fly up to 40 miles to achieve success. The colours are normally rotated very 5 years as this is the expected life of a queen bee. However, now that they are laying throughout the winter, the queens are lasting only 2 years. Another worrying trend….. especially as 1/4 of the crops grown in the UK require a pollinator. Bees are used in drug detection because they only require 20mins training (but live shorter lives than dogs). They produce propolis too which is being used to treat some cancers. The honey is now being used to combat many antibiotic resistant infections, including MRSA, and bee stings are indeed one of the most effective ways of treating rheumatoid arthritis. We were told how this was achieved without killing the bees. It is sad then that the average age of the 40 commercial beekeepers in the UK is 67 yrs old. If only youngsters were to listen to Chris talk we may be lucky enough to have larger numbers involved in this interesting and vital form of farming! We must certainly appreciate every drop of honey a little more. It takes the whole life of 12 bees to produce 1 teaspoonful of honey! Our next meeting is on 19th February when Marina Dunn will be talking about ‘From Theatre to Garden Design’. Her career spans theatrical design to being the owner of Urbanbotanic Garden Designs. The competition for the month is ‘A Floral Valentine Token” Meetings are in the King George’s Hall in Mickleton, Chapel Lane, GL55 6SA and start at 7pm for 7.30pm. Visitors and new members are more than welcome. Please browse our website at www.mickletongc.org.uk Janet Walmsley, Chairman