Last week I began looking at the life of a bee colony.  As the numbers grow the colony can reach the point at which it becomes too big for the hive, the worker bees start turning one of the female eggs into a queen.  They do this by surrounding the egg with lots of royal jelly.  This egg will grow more quickly and when she hatches she must mate within the first 3 weeks, so she leaves the hive and mates with a drone who then dies.  His sole purpose was to mate with her.  She stores his sperm and will use it to create female eggs in the future.  Now that the colony has 2 queens it splits with half of the bees following the old queen to search for a new site.  In order for the old queen to be able to fly the workers stop feeding her for a couple of days so that she slims down a bit.  She is not much bigger than them and so is able to fly.  This swarm normally breaks off from the colony in June / July giving them time to establish a new hive before winter.

The colony continues to grow until August, building up honey reserves to see them through the winter.  The queen then begins to lay fewer eggs and the colony starts to kill any remaining drones.  They bite off their wings and throw them out of the hive since they no longer serve any purpose.  The queen normally stops laying at the end of autumn and the bees huddle together on the hive frames through the winter, eating the stored honey.

In Part 3 I’ll start looking at some of the issues facing the honey bee.


(This is an extract from my article which you can read in full here)


Back in June 2015 the campaign group 38 Degrees held an event in Westminster to “arm our MPs with everything they need to know about bees and bee-killing pesticides.”  That was over 2 years ago but bees and pesticides are very much still big news with further headlines hitting social media recently.  It’s heartening to see that Michael Gove is backing a total ban on these chemicals, as reported in the Guardian on Thursday 9 November 2017:

UK will back total ban on bee-harming pesticides, Michael Gove reveals


So why is this so important?

Bees are amazing creatures.  They play a very important role in the pollination of many of the plants that we depend on for food but in recent years their numbers have been declining rapidly.  I will focus on the honey bee here and look at some of the issues that it has been facing, and steps that are being taken to try to support it.

A year in the life of a honey bee colony

Each colony is ruled by a single queen.  She starts laying eggs in early spring and the old worker bees, who hatched in the previous autumn, make sure that the colony is viable and start bringing in pollen from snowdrops and other spring flowers.  These early blossoms are therefore important to the bees.  They provide a source of food as the bees become active again after the winter.

The queen starts by laying female eggs (fertilised with stored sperm) and then she will lay some male (unfertilised) eggs as well.  She can lay up to 2000 eggs a day.  The colony continues to grow and can reach up to 50,000 – 80,000 worker bees (females) and a few hundred drones (males) by June.  (The worker bees live for about 3 weeks, the queen for about 3 years and the droves for about 3-4 months.)

When temperatures reach 12oC or above the worker bees go out to collect nectar to make honey, and pollen to feed to the developing grubs.  Normally they will forage up to 5km from the hive.  When a worker finds a new source of nectar she brings some back to the colony and passes it to some of the other bees.  They gather round her and she does a ‘waggle dance’ which gives them information about where to find the nectar.  She goes round in a horseshoe pattern then bisects this at an angle.    The number of times she goes round the horseshoe is the distance to the nectar source and the angle indicates the sun’s position.  (She has 5 eyes, one of which can see polarised light, so she knows the position of the sun even when it is cloudy.)

In Part 2 I’ll describe what happens when the colony increases in number and becomes too big for their hive.


(This is an extract from my article which you can read in full here)

Dog & Cat Nutrition part 5 of 5

In part 4 of this series I looked at the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet.  Some people, however, have voiced concerns about feeding raw food to pets.  The Pet Food Manufacturers Association says:

“There are concerns that feeding raw meat to pets can present a human/animal risk, such as salmonella contamination. In the case where only raw meat and bones are fed, there is an additional concern among vets and animal nutritionists that this exclusive diet may not meet the pet’s needs.”

However if the food is bought from a reputable company they should be happy to provide information on their sources and these should be of very high quality.  If appropriate care is taken with handling, presentation and storage of the food it should not pose significant risk.

Another option is to return to the ‘old fashioned’ method of cooking and preparing food from scratch at home and including enough to feed any animals in the household.  This would also benefit the health of the human members of the family as they too would be eating fewer processed foods.  Cooked meat and vegetables are easier for animals to digest which can support absorption of nutrients and help to avoid upset stomachs.

Whichever option is chosen, for anyone deciding to change their pet’s diet this should be done sensitively.  A dog or cat who has eaten only processed foods up to this point needs time for their digestion and palate to adjust.  Sometimes guardians are put off feeding ‘human’ food to the animals in their care because they become so enthusiastic that they radically alter the diet overnight and then complain that it has made the animal ill when it is sick or has diarrhoea.  This would actually be a ‘normal’ response to such a sudden change.  Instead the new food should be introduced slowly, gradually reducing the amount of tinned food or kibble and replacing it with some meat and vegetables.  Over time the processed foods can be removed entirely if desired.

Hopefully as we become more aware of our own health needs we will in turn be more sensitive to the needs of the animals in our care.  Just as our wellbeing depends on our lifestyle, diet and exercise, so it is with our companion animals.  Many people are becoming more health aware and diet conscious so hopefully this will have knock-on benefits for the animals too.

If you are interested in nutrition for your pet and would like to explore this further, contact me for a no-obligation chat where we can discuss your situation and see what simple changes you might be able to make to enhance their wellbeing.  My contact details are:

07980 669303

You can also read more about my work on my website:


You can read the full text of this article here

Dog & Cat Nutrition part 4 of 5

Roger Meacock, a vet based in Swindon, UK says: “What people need to understand is that while on the outside dogs and cats have been domesticated into cuddly pets, inside a dog is 99% related to the wolf, while a pet cat’s digestive system is no different from a wild lion’s.”  He says that their diet “should revolve around raw meat, as it would do in the wild, which is good for their teeth and gums as well as the animal’s general health.”

Many pet foods contain chemical additives.  TV vet Joe Inglis says: “Over the past few years, many additives have been banned from human food, but pet food is still pumped full of similar chemicals.” (ibid)  The way raw ingredients are processed into pet food that will sit in a bowl without going off, or that can be stored in a can or bag for years, means that many of the nutrients are destroyed.  This is why additives such as preservatives and vitamins need to be added.  Jackie Marriott of the UK Raw Meaty Bones Support and Action Group says: “Although our pets digest them, their digestive systems have to work flat out to derive the best benefit… Most importantly, processed food also sits like a sludge on their teeth.”

An alternative to commercial pet foods is the BARF – Biologically Appropriate Raw Food – diet.  (BARF is also translated as the ‘Bones And Raw Food’ Diet.)  It was devised by Dr Ian Billinghurst, a veterinary surgeon, writer and lecturer from Australia.  He wrote a book entitled “Give Your Dog a Bone” which changed many people’s thinking around how they should feed their pets.  He says:

“I realized that most of the disease problems I was seeing in cats and dogs were due to nothing other than poor nutrition. That most of those diseases did not have to be. They could be eliminated with correct nutrition. To me this was both a revolutionary thought and an incredible revelation. I wanted to tell everybody! The only problem as I saw it back then was that this philosophy of feeding may not be accepted by my fellow vets who rely heavily on ill health in their patients for their daily bread.”

His website states:

“A biologically appropriate diet for a dog is one that consists of raw whole foods similar to those eaten by the dogs’ wild ancestors.  The food fed must contain the same balance and type of ingredients as consumed by those wild ancestors. This food will include such things as muscle meat, bone, fat, organ meat and vegetable materials and any other “foods” that will mimic what those wild ancestors ate.”

Specially prepared packs of raw foods can now be purchased from several online outlets (such as Honey’s, Raw2Paw, and Barf Pet Foods) making them more convenient, and the price is similar to feeding an animal on a good quality tinned food.

Some people voice concerns about these raw food diets.  In the last part of this series I’ll look at what these might be and how to make sure your pet stays healthy.

If you are interested in nutrition for your pet and would like to explore this further, contact me for a no-obligation chat where we can discuss your situation and see what simple changes you might be able to make to enhance their wellbeing.  My contact details are:

07980 669303

You can also read more about my work on my website:


You can read the full text of this article here.