The Joys of Bee Keeping


Our programme continued with a talk by Alun James on the Joys of Bee Keeping. Alun began his talk with a brief history of bee keeping. The honey bee has certainly been around for a long time – fossilized remains date back some 135 million years. Some of the earliest records of bee keeping are to be found in prehistoric drawings.

The Egyptians practised a form of bee keeping using simple hives and the beeswax was used in embalming and also turned into writing tablets. Jars of honey were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Alun’s grandfather was a bee keeper and so it was that Alun decided to carry on the family tradition. A friend happened to be downsizing and so Alun was able to get the equipment needed for him to start his new hobby. Following a trip to Ammanford to a bee auction the nuclear collection of bees purchased was brought back to Cardiff and after a few incidents all were safely installed in their new homes.

Alun then went on to explain the structure of modern hives – honey bees are social insects and form a colony in the hive. This is made up of the queen, whose sole purpose is to lay eggs, female worker bees who collect the nectar to produce honey and male drones whose function is to mate with the females.

Once the honey has been deposited in a cell it is capped off with a wax coating. The moisture content of honey is very important and should be no more than 20%. Alun explained how the honey was collected and all the steps that have to be adhered to in order to gain a hygiene rating of 5 so that it can be sold.

Bees perform a waggle dance – this is a form of communication between the bees giving information about where to go for the best sources of food. By measuring the angle of the dance in relation to the sun and the length of time the bee waggled its abdomen researchers have been able to map the distances and locations where bees forage.

In winter damp can be a problem for bees and supplementary honey is provided for them as food. Alun finished his talk by telling us of the problems that can be encountered such as the varroa mite. Pesticides are also a problem and in parts of Sichuan province in China bees have been wiped out and the pear orchards have to be fertilised by hand to sustain the fruit industry.

Alun has a colony of bees at Insole Court and jars of his honey can also be purchased there. Bees are very important as some one third of human food is dependant on pollination by bees. It is good that this is a flourishing hobby and anyone interested should contact Cardiff beekeepers (

After all the cold weather and snow it was good to have a reminder that Spring was just round the corner. We were treated to a fashion show by M&Co organised by Lorraine, the manager of the Penarth branch assisted by Jill and Cineade.

Our models for the evening were Sandra, Jill, Irene and Christine. It was good of our members to give up time to choose their outfits for the night but they all looked very glamorous on the catwalk. I am sure we all found something we liked and will be going to the shop to see what else they have to offer.