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by Emma Gilboy
'Bees are just so clever', Simon enthuses.
We are having a conversation about taking the Gilboy's team on a visit to some local beekeepers to deepen our understanding of how beeswax is created. We source natural, organic beeswax from two local producers in order to make both our wax polishes and leather balsam.
'Bees have systems in place so that the hive operates with maximum efficiency. Every bee has a role and a specific purpose. They can even communicate to other bees to tell them where to find sources of food,' he continues.
The more Simon tells me, the more intrigued I am to find out more about these intelligent, efficient and productive creatures. It seems to me that there may be some practical applications to my own life.
So begins my research and I soon discover that there are three types of honey bee.
The male bees are called drones. Their primary role is to reproduce and they do none of the work in the hive. Their lifespan is very short, often no more than 90 days. The male drones either die after mating with the queen or are evicted from the hive and die before winter arrives. Maybe this is what Simon admires about the life of a bee? The males have a short but fulfilled life involving none of the menial tasks around the hive and are simply required to reproduce. Hmmm!
The worker bees are female. A single hive can have thousands of these bees, whose main purpose is to keep the entire hive and its queen functioning. What I found interesting about the worker bee is that her role changes as she matures. Her first tasks will involve cleaning and then nursing. By middle age (12 days) she progresses to the status of wax producer and by the ripe old age of 32 days she has earned the right to leave the hive in order to forage for nectar and pollen. As I read this information I try to visualise the hierarchy inside the hive. A constantly moving and evolving workforce where each bee understands and performs its current and consequent role without question. Now this is appealing to my sense of order and organisation. Could the Gilboy home ever reach such a pinnacle of efficiency? Well I'm afraid the answer to that question has to be 'no.' This worker bee would need a considerable amount of back-up, although the drone of the house may be happy enough to allow everything to just happen around him.
So we come to the final member of the hive; the queen. Each hive has a single queen. Her sole role in the hive is that of reproduction and she only leaves the hive once in her life in order to mate. On this day she will mate with up to 30 drones and then return to the hive to lay her eggs. As queen bee there is no requirement to work within the hive. In fact, she is attended by the worker bees who will feed and clean her all day. Now this is starting to appeal. I think I could manage to sit and be waited upon by some attendants who have to meet my every dietary need. However, the worker bee in me would probably tire of the lack of activity after a day of such attention. Hence being queen bee for just one day would probably suffice.
So this Mothering Sunday I will happily embrace my inner queen bee for just one day and then resume my worker bee duties on Monday, including working in the Gilboy hive. I will undoubtedly have a renewed sense of admiration for the tiny creatures who produce our beeswax. Especially when I learn that for each pound of beeswax produced by honey bees, that they will visit over 30 million flowers.
Beeswax forms the basis for the many products being created around our workshop here in Staverton. The beeswax in our wood polishes provides a sacrificial, protective surface that helps bring out the natural patina of wood and leaves it silky-smooth to the touch.
Our beautifully hand gilded 100% beeswax scratch repair cubes are designed to repair dinks, dents, cracks and even deep scratches in wooden furniture.
The most recent addition to the Gilboys line is our leather balsam. This product uses beeswax, alongside other natural ingredients, to moisturise, condition and waterproof dried out leather. The anti-bacterial properties of beeswax will also help combat the build up of bacteria that can lead to mould forming on damp leather.
Simon and Jo demonstrate how quickly and easily the balsam revives leather footwear in our video (coming soon).
Never before have I taken so much pleasure in completing the usually tedious task of shoe polishing. The effort involved is minimal and the results can be overwhelmingly satisfying. Leather shoes and boots develop a nourished and waterproofed sheen after only a few wipes of balsam. This is a product which harnesses the elegant efficiency of the hive and will satisfy any worker bee who chooses to use it.
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