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Page last updated at 15:38 GMT, Wednesday, 9 June 2010 16:38 UK
Bee Part Of It: Suffolk's Aldeburgh hive is filling up
Bee Part Of It
By Jon Wright and Lesley Dolphin
BBC Suffolk

BBC Radio Suffolk presenter lesley Dolphin with a rack of bees
Lesley Dolphin is beeing part of it!

As the flowers come out, BBC Radio Suffolk's Aldeburgh hive is getting bigger and bigger.

"This colony now is fast approaching its maximum population," said Laurie Wiseman, who has been teaching Lesley Dolphin the art of bee keeping.

He has added two extra layers to the top section of our adopted hive, so the bees have space to store their honey.

The second hive we're following is at the National Trust's Ickworth House near Bury St Edmunds.

Lesley has been visiting the Aldeburgh hive since April, and is hoping to collect her first honey very soon.

Who's in the hive?

"This one would have 40,000 bees in it," said Laurie.

"That's one fertile queen, and then two or three hundred fertile male drones.

Laurie Wiseman smokes his bees
A little bit of smoke calms the bees down

"Then there would be 20,000 foraging bees, they are females and they would be five weeks old and they go out and collect the nectar and the pollen.

"Then there would be 20,000 house bees, they are also females and about three weeks old.

"It's these bees which look after the young larva that hatch out from the eggs and which all need feeding with royal jelly."

Inside the hive Laurie estimated there are another 30,000 larva which will hatch out in the next 10 days, so he decided to add another level, or super, to give them more room.

The metal grill you can see in the picture is called a queen separator.

This divides the hive into the bottom section, where the queen lays her eggs and the larva are hatched, and the top section which is where the excess honey is stored.

Looking after the baby bees

Bees on a section of hive

"When the queen lays an egg, it hatches into a larva after three days," said Laurie.

"It needs to be fed for three days with royal jelly, and then a mixture of royal jelly, honey and pollen for a further two days.

"To make royal jelly, the very, very young bees, soon after emerging from their cells, gorge themselves on lots of pollen.

"This stimulates the development of the hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands in their foreheads.

"And it's these two glands that produce the royal jelly, it's a milky substance, and it's full of complex proteins, like mothers' milk," he said.

Laurie predicted that as the colony is nearly full, the queen will now slow down her egg laying. In Lesley's next lesson, she'll be extracting her first honey.

Meanwhile over at the Ickworth hive...

BBC Radio Suffolk's bee buddy Sam Reed has been taking care of the new bees, which were introduced to the hive in May.

"They seem to be enjoying it and have settled in quite well," said Sam.

"The colony is starting to grow and it's looking good, there's lots of egg laying going on at the moment.

"They were a small nucleus to start with, so they are still building up.

"They have just started collecting some honey, but there isn't any excess there yet, but they are brining it in and they are starting to store it.

"Hopefully we'll have something to take off at the end of the year."

Sam has been bee keeping for a couple of years and our Bee Part Of It hive brings her total to eight hives.

"It's amazing, you always see something different when you go in," she said.

"They work as a great team, we could learn a lot from them."

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