bee happy dark bees ayr beekeepers

Bee Happy – an opportunity of a lifetime!

posted in: Gardening, Photography | 0

You’ve got to read this and see what all this ‘bee happy’ excitement is about!  But before you do – have you ever wanted to stroke a bee? When I was younger I’d run a mile in the other direction from a bee. But once I had my own kids I had to overcome my fear of anything that buzzes. Nowadays I photograph bees – and get the odd sting.  I love bees and photography changed my relationship with bees forever. Every year I have at least 1 wild nest in the garden. You’ll usually find me sitting nearby with a cup of coffee listening to them hum and watching them go in and out of the hive entrance. But this weekend I was very Bee Happy as I had the opportunity of a lifetime!

Bee Happy


bee happy ayr beekeepers gardening scotland
it looks like we’re going through some initiation ceremony LOL at Gardening Scotland.
bee happy at gardening scotland ayr beekeepers
that’s me on the right 


While working at Gardening Scotland I got to dress up! All thanks to Ayr Beekeepers and their open hive demonstration which was next to our Dobbies marquee. I might have looked like an astronaut on one of the hottest lunchtimes of the year so far – but I didn’t care. I was going to get up close and very personal with thousands and thousands of bees.


eeeek!  TWO TIMES.


The first time in front of an audience at lunchtime. Then the 2nd time near the end of the day with just Phil (one of the bee keepers) AND my camera.

The first time around we were introduced individually to the audience by name. Then Phil opened the hive. He carefully lifted each frame and told us all about what was going on with each frame. We held them up to the audience – laden with bees and honey. The audience sat a safe distance away from the netted enclosure while they listened to someone describe what we were doing in the hive enclosure. I’m not sure if some in the audience realised that there was no roof on that enclosure and those bees were free to fly out if they wanted to. We had a mass of bees above our heads.

yellow queen bee excluder - bee happy ayr beekeepers gardening scotland
Queen bee excluder
inside the hive - bee happy ayr beekeepers gardening scotland
Little did I know that I’d have to put my fingers in there to lift out a frame!
female worker bees arriving at the hive - bee happy ayr beekeepers gardening scotland
The entrance to the hive with female worker bees

There’s a Buzz About This Place

Second time around was amazing. The rain …yip we had some rain on the first official day of summer – nothing new there for being Scotland. But it sent the visitors undercover into the floral main hall …few came out again. So once it stopped raining I was given the opportunity to go into the hive area on my own with Phil.


Once all the kit was on – this woman boldly went into the enclosure LOL. No big white wellington boots 2nd time around. I was assured I’d be ok as long as I tucked my white overalls into my own boots.


Phil gave them a wee puff of smoke to calm them down and I followed him in. I was only in about a minute and then I realised that things were different this time. No kidding – I’m convinced those bees were noisier and much more active around me 2nd time around. I might be mistaken on the number but I think Phil told me there were about 40,000 bees in the hive.


Phil said that the hot weather earlier at lunch time had probably made them a bit more docile. Well they sure weren’t docile 2nd time around. I hoped I had tucked those trouser legs really well into my own boots.


They took a liking to my camera and my hands but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. I didn’t have one bee to stroke but loads of them all over my fingers. I just had to remember to make sure none of them were on the viewfinder or the LCD screen as I’d still bring the camera up to my eye against the netting to take a photograph. Furthermore I didn’t want stung on the cheek.

rosie nixon flower photographer bee happy gardening scotland with ayr beekeepers
Me holding the smoker

Lifting Out The Frames

At the first demonstration Phil would gently ease the frames out of the hive. Hand them to us and we’d pass them around the group and show them through the netted window to the audience. Each frame had a different level of activity. Some had very little activity towards the outside edges of the hive while others closer to the queen had honey, pollen and nectar. I never knew that a worker bee only lives for 6 weeks during the summer and works itself to death. Three of those weeks are spent working in the hive before it even forages outside the hive!  (Growing plants like pulmonaria and crocus for early spring flowers, and Erigeron karvinskianus for summer flowers are good food sources for foraging worker bees.)

bee hive frame bee happy ayr beekeepers gardening scotland

another frame with a bit more activity - bee happy ayr beekeepers gardening scotland

lots of bee activity - bee happy ayr beekeepers gardening scotland


Second time around Phil allowed me to take some of the frames out on my own. That was just so cool. As I placed my hands down into the hive I could see the bees climbing all over my fingers, then as I lifted the frame up Phil used my camera to take some photos of me holding it. Some of you who know me so well can just imagine how excited I was. Lifting out those frames on my own was such a special moment – eeeek I was beaming! 


Rosie Nixon flower photographer - bee happy ayr beekeepers gardening scotland
Me grinning from ear to ear as I’ve just lifted out my first hive frame! – Bee Happy for sure!
Phil from ayr beekeepers
My bee happy beekeeper. I can’t forget about photographing Phil too!
Rosie nixon flower photographer with bee hive frame - bee happy ayr beekeepers gardening scotland
Then I got to lift out another frame! – I’m really bee happy!



bee stinger, barb and venom sac bee happy ayr beekeepers gardening scotland

Bee Stings


Phil then showed me two stings with the barb, venom gland and stinger on his own glove and described how you should scrape this off your skin rather than pinch or pull it out. The venom gland continues pulsing after it’s detached from the bee and continues to pump venom into the skin for up to a minute. So the sooner you get that sting off your skin the better. The venom gland / poison sack is part of the bee’s stomach and the bee will die after it stings you. Worker bees (females) can only sting once, the drones (males) don’t have a sting while Queens will only sting other queens.

Undeterred I still kept taking photos. LOL  – I’d thicker gloves on than him!

The Nursery

queen bee nursery bee happy ayr beekeepers gardening scotland
We found the queen – she lays around 1,500 eggs a day!
queen bee bee happy ayr beekeepers gardening scotland
You can see that ‘Her Majesty’ has her left wing partially clipped


Phil bee happy ayr beekeepers gardening scotland
Gardening Scotland / Edinburgh with Phil from Ayr Beekeepers 


The Queen Bee


First time around in one hive we found the queen and she was marked with a red dot. That was just so cool to see. Second time around in the other hive we found the queen with a yellow dot. I found out that the colours are used to ID which year the queens were born.

  • Yellow when a year ends in 2 or 7.
  • Red if a year ends with a 3 or 8.

Each queen also had one wing partially clipped to prevent it from leaving the hive with the first main swarm.



Now it’s got to be said that Phil treated me like a queen in giving me this special opportunity. He got a big hug at the end once we came out of the enclosure and another photo!



At least I didn’t get a red or yellow blob of paint on my head nor get one of my wings clipped LOL. But instead I came home with precious memories that will last with me forever!

Thank you so much!




Rosie Nixon
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Rosie is based in Perth, Perthshire as a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature in her own garden and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the Scottish outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at the only photographic gallery in Scotland - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh.

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