with Martyn Cracknell
on 03 October 2017
Martyn Cracknell, President of the Worcestershire Beekeepers’ Association, came to talk to us about our forthcoming exhibition at the Royal Show at the Three Counties Showground in June 2018. Our exhibition will be held in the marquee used by the representatives of the Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire Bee keepers. In 2018, Worcestershire is responsible for the central display area consisting of 3 tables, 18’ long in total, with two display boards standing on or at the side of the table ends. The brief is to provide a Worcestershire theme related to bees, so Martyn has chosen Wildflower Meadows because Worcestershire is the most important county in Britain holding 20% of them. Eades Meadow is a particularly good example with 50 different plants per square metre compared to an average of 35 different plants per square metre.
These meadows are important to help protect pollinators, not only honey and bumble bees but others such as hover flies, as intensively farmed land rarely allows space for wildflowers to grow. Martyn showed slides of meadows and plants and particularly emphasised the different layers in the meadow. At ground level, there is a variety of leaf shapes, above that there are low growing flowers, then higher still the grasses, and finally, taller flowering plants. He pointed out that, viewed from a distance, the grasses create a grey haze of seed heads with splashes of colour from flowers interspersed amongst them, which is almost impressionistic. He also suggested possible ideas of meadows in moonlight or in the rain, with drops of rain on leaves. Martyn mentioned Knapweed, Meadow Sweet, Orchids, Bedstraw, Jack-Go-To-Bed –At-Noon (Salsify), Vetch, Yorkshire Fog and Clover.
Martyn gave us a few facts about honey bees. There is only one honey bee with many different strains. Two different images showed the colours of two different strains, one being more tan and gold and the other quite brown. Martyn pointed out that, in creating an image of a honeybee, it should be noted that their body shape is quite complicated. Bumble bees are different again in colouration and shape and appear hairier. In one hive, there could be 60,000 honeybees and in winter they huddle together to keep warm where the centre of the hive will record temperatures of 15 degrees. They need 30lbs of honey left in the hive to keep them alive through the winter and, if the weight of the hive drops, then sugar syrup is supplied by the keepers. In summer, when the brood is being cared for, the temperature is kept at 37 degrees. Grapefruit size nests are made by 30-50 bumblebees. They all die in winter except for the queen who hides until warmer weather returns.