Category: Behind the Scenes

Pierhead Bees – Summer update, August 2019

Matthew Jones, Sustainability Manager

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

Winter

The Pierhead Bees coped with their first winter well – they thinned down their numbers and huddled together for warmth in the hive, keeping it a toasty 30+ degrees in the middle to protect their queen. 

We left all the honey in the hives last year as they hadn’t been with us for the full season, and even supplemented their diet with some fondant which they munched through in the spring without having to leave the hives.

Spring into Summer

The different personalities of the hives have  continued to be evident throughout their first year.  Hive two has still been much more boisterous with the keepers inspecting them, but they have also been busier.  They started making plenty of food and increasing their numbers again early in the spring, while hive one was still taking it slow after the winter. 

So much so in fact that we even had to borrow some frames of food from hive two and give it to the bees in hive one; rewarding their lethargy, we know!

As the abundance of flowering plants has grown into the summer, especially on the undeveloped areas of land around the Bay where the bees can forage, hive one caught up and both were displaying ample food stocks.

This trend continued and recently we actually had to add a super (extra layer) to hive one to store all their food, and another one for brood– all the extra baby bees they’ve been making.

Hive two in the meantime changed dramatically- relaxing their behaviour for a while whilst we noticed they had stopped making eggs.  Although it can be difficult to spot the queen during an inspection visit, a behaviour change and lack of eggs are sure-fire signs the queen is no longer present.  The following week we then noticed two queen or supercedure cells; the hive trying to make a new queen.  We had to leave both of these to hatch, and in the ruthless efficiency of nature the two queens would battle it out with only the strongest surviving.

We had to allow this process to take its course; servicing only hive one whilst the queen from hive two left to mate with a male from another hive, and return home before settling down to take up her new role as matriarch and egg-layer. 

A precarious time during which she could become lost or even eaten by a bird, we were obviously on tenterhooks awaiting her safe return.  Our keepers had to be patient while we avoided any disturbance of the hive during this critical time.  That patience paid off though and we are pleased to report that at the start of August we found new eggs in hive two.  Baby bees are being made and the hive has a new leader to work for. 

Long live the queen!

For more information on the Pierhead Bees project email sustainability@assembly.wales

Caring for the Pierhead bees: our staff volunteers

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

August 2019

The Assembly’s Pierhead building has been the home of two rooftop beehives since July 2018, regularly monitored and cared for by a small team of staff volunteers.

Despite having a rooftop location the hives are in a safe, sheltered spot which gives them protection from the worst of Cardiff Bay’s weather. Under the watchful eyes of our volunteers they settled in through autumn and survived their first winter.

Now it’s summer again, the bees are working hard and have started producing honey.

Here, some of our volunteers talk about their experiences:

Emily

It’s the height of summer and the Pierhead Bees are busier than ever foraging the surrounding areas of the Pierhead to build up stores of their glorious golden honey.

Whilst one of the hives had a relatively slow start this summer, the bees have more than made up for it and have now built up frame after frame of honey which will be harvested in the Autumn. It never ceases to amaze me just how hard working the bees are… To make just 1KG of honey, our Pierhead bees will have flown 145, 000km and could have visited up to 2000 flowers per day! As you can see from the photos below, they have been very busy indeed.

So how do the bees make honey? Our bees have been busy foraging the local area for nectar found in plants and wildflowers. The nectar is collected, then once inside the beehive, the worker bees repeatedly consume, digest and regurgitate the nectar into the cells. When it is the right consistency, the honey is then sealed which is what you can see in the photos below.

This will be the first season where we will be able to harvest honey, and as a new beekeeper I am excited to see the process. Honey has been harvested for thousands of years for its various benefits. Not only does it taste delicious and never goes off, but it has many medicinal properties too. It is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory and can even be used to help relieve hay fever symptoms. Hopefully the bees will be kind enough to share some of their honey with us later in the year!

Did you know?
Honey stores have been found in the tombs of ancient Egyptian Pharaohs and when excavated were still edible 3000 years later! Proving the theory that honey never goes off!

Sian D

As a nature lover, I feel very lucky to be part of such an exciting project at the Assembly.

Who knew that there was so much to learn about bees?! I’ve been working on the project for just over a year now and I still find myself constantly learning about their ways and tricks. I’m nearly always surprised each time I lift the lid off a hive and peer in – particularly at the astonishing speed with which the hives change and develop.

The busy nature of the bees means that it is essential that we carry out weekly inspections during the summer months, while the flowers are blooming and pollination activity is in full swing. We work as a pair during the inspections, thoroughly scanning each frame as we work our way through the hive. While we scan we look for honey (their food supply); pollen; capped brood cells; larva; eggs; and the usually inconspicuous queen.

During an inspection you may find some of the bees raising their behinds in the air and frantically fanning their wings. If you are brave enough to put your face close to them then you will smell a lovely fresh scent of lemon being wafted up your nostrils. This scent that they release helps the foraging bees find their way home.

As you scan through the hives you will also find that the capped cells come in different sizes. The large raised ones will contain a drone bee (male) and the flatter cells contain a smaller female bee.

Did you know that the queen bee can choose the sex of its offspring? When a virgin queen first leaves the hive she will have multiple matings with drone bees during her flight. She then stores the sperm using it bit by bit as she lays her eggs. Her stores will usually last around three years. If she fertilizes an egg with sperm then a female bee will emerge, and a drone will emerge from an unfertilized egg. This ‘choice’ is determined by the size of the brood cells made by the worker bees. And these are only a few of the many fascinating facts about the wondrous bees!

Sian C

I jumped at the opportunity to be involved in the bee keeping here at the Assembly and my experience so far has not disappointed.

The bee keeping is fascinating and I find the time spent up on top of the Pierhead so relaxing. Caring for the bees and watching the hives grow and change has been an education, and I am in awe of the colonies and the way in which nature works.

I have learnt so much, not just about the bees, but also it has further peaked my interest in environmental issues and from this I have made some big changes to my consumer habits, diet and garden! Not only have I learnt a new skill, I have also met some amazing new people from all walks of Assembly life, many of whom I wouldn’t have had a chance to speak with beyond a quick ‘hello’ in the corridor.

Thanks for the opportunity to be part of such an innovative project – I love it!

Katy

I am always surprised to see the letters ‘Dr.’ in front of my name. But I am a doctor. Not the type you’d want on a plane when the stewards shout ‘is there a doctor on-board?!’ for I am (what my friends have coined) a ‘Dr of Bees’. My PhD was based on studying wild pollinators which involved identifying bee species and the flowers they feed on.

So, I was so excited to discover that the Assembly had started keeping bees. I am now a member of the Bee team (by no means secondary) and it is such a privilege. Although I had studied wild pollinator communities, I didn’t have any experience of keeping honey bees. I have learned so much from Nature’s Little Helpers and my fellow Bee team colleagues, thank you for the opportunity.

They are amazing animals. They truly work as a ‘hive mind’, each having specialised roles depending on their age, which they perform so diligently. The youngest bees are the cleaners. They progress through the roles of feeding their larval brothers and sisters, building the combs, guarding the hive and finally flying away to collect pollen and nectar.

Together they create the most meticulous and astonishing collective. And of course there is the Queen. But she doesn’t reign as you might imagine, for it is the worker bees that call the shots. Through cues, they control the queen’s activity – they even decide whether she lays a male or female grub!


Due to their rooftop location and not wanting to disturb the bees, the hives are not open to the public, although if you look carefully you might spot one of them gathering pollen around Cardiff Bay.

10 reasons to visit the Senedd this Summer

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

Looking for something to do this weekend? Why not head to Cardiff Bay to visit the Senedd?

From politics to architecture, from art to artisan Welsh products, the Senedd has something for everyone.

1. The award-winning architecture and design

The Senedd is truly one of a kind. It’s huge funnel and canopy made of sustainable Canadian cedar wood are best viewed from inside the building, where you can explore on two levels.

2. Explore the Senedd trail

Looking for some fun, free children’s activities to enjoy this weekend? Little explorers can time-travel through the centuries on our children’s trails. Search the Senedd and collect the clues – and find out lots of interesting facts along the way. Hand your completed card back to Reception and enter the draw to win a prize!

3. See what happens behind the scenes

Over the summer our guided tours include exclusive access to areas not usually open to the public. Our friendly, expert guides will take you on a journey through the history of the Bay through to the architecture of the Senedd and Wales today.
Best of all, tours are free and run daily at 11.00 / 14.00 / 15.00

4. Enjoy a taste of Wales in our café and shop

A day of exploring the Bay calls for a paned (Welsh for ‘cuppa’) and cake in our café. Choose from a range of refreshments and enjoy beautiful views of the Bay through the Senedd’s huge windows. Next to the café is the shop, which stocks Welsh produce, books and gifts.

5. Take in some art

The Senedd will be hosting some great new exhibitions throughout the Summer.

You could create your own postcard from Wales inspired by Steve Knapik MBE’s huge installation and post it in our post box.
Discover some of the history of Cardiff Bay through Jack K Neale’s old black and white images of ships sailing out of Bute Docks, carrying South Wales coal back to France.
Or think about what you’d add to Drawn Together, a national project which invited people to take five minutes to draw something they could see. In total over 4,500 people participated, with drawings received from every county in Wales.

6. The friendliest security in Cardiff

As with any parliamentary building, all visitors are required to go through airport-style security on their way into the Senedd. However, our Security team strive to make a good first impression. Here is a very small selection of the many comments we’ve received about them on Trip Advisor:

“Had to pass through security, but they were the politest I’ve encountered (Heathrow take note)”
Celticfire

“Friendliest government building I have ever visited! Beautiful and interesting building manned by the friendliest staff I’ve ever come across. Even the security guards were a delight ensuring an easy, safe transit into the building.”
Gillyflower58

“Airport style security performed by some very happy and friendly staff.”
138Paul138

Did we mention we also have a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence?

7. Enjoy the Senedd’s environmental design

Baking hot in Cardiff Bay? The Senedd’s unique design keeps it lovely and cool on summer days. It’s windows actually open and close automatically to help regulate the temperature inside.

8. Help us celebrate 20 years

This year we are celebrating 20 years of the National Assembly for Wales. Share your aspirations for Wales over the next 20 years on our board.

9. We’ve got Lego®, Duplo® and activities for little ones

If you’re feeling inspired after seeing the Bright Bricks dragon, princess and wizard in Mermaid Quay, come along and add your own Lego® creation to our map of Wales. Throughout the holidays we also have colouring and craft available to keep little ones entertained while you enjoy a well-earned sit down.

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10. It’s free!

And how much does it cost to access all this, I hear you ask? Nothing. The Senedd is a public building – your building – and we are open 7 days a week. Whether you’re visiting Cardiff for the weekend or you’re a local who’s never ventured inside, head down to the Senedd this summer as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Assembly for Wales.


World Bee Day 2019: The Pierhead Bees

Summer 2018

During the bees’ first year at the Pierhead we are not expecting much honey, but they have settled in and are in good health.  Staff volunteers monitor the hives once a week, and we are also lucky enough to have a couple of members of staff with their own apiaries who bring a wealth of knowledge to maintaining the hives.

Despite being only a few months into the project the two hives are already demonstrating their own unique personalities, with Hive 2 definitely hosting a much rowdier crowd!

Spring 2019

The bees spent the autumn slimming down their numbers and building up their foodstock to make the over-wintering process as efficient as possible.

After our last inspection of them in November it was important not to open the hive and let them cool down too much.  They then spent the winter using up the food they’d stored in the cells, most of which will have been delicious honey.  Huddled together in the hive and vibrating their wings for warmth, they manage to keep the core temperature a toasty 35 degrees!  The bees will even rotate as a group- to keep the queen warm in the middle and ensure they all spend their fair share on the outside.

To help the bees get through the long winter and into spring before more natural food appears, we provided the bees with some fondant- a sugar based food rather like icing sugar.  You can see from the images below how they made use of it through February, March, and into April:

We also made some other provisions for the hives over winter.  As well as checking they had enough food we strapped them down to protect against high winds, and also fitted mouse guards.  Mice will love the warm dry space in the middle of winter, especially when it’s full of honey!

Our small efforts, coupled with the bees natural survival skills, meant the two hives made it through into spring safely.  We’ve checked on them to look at their food supply and health, as well as rearrange their frames a bit to ensure they have enough space.  They’re out foraging round the Bay now- enjoying the wealth of tree blossom and flowers the warm weather has brought.

Meet the team: Security Officers

Our Security Officers are responsible for the safety and security of all those who visit or work at the National Assembly for Wales. Here, some of the team talk about the role…

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

Shahzad

Shahzad, Security Officer

“I have been working in Security now for six months. I have had the most amazing and wonderful experiences.  To be able to work and be part of the Welsh Assembly staff is an honour in itself and such an accolade to have.

The National Assembly holds diversity and multi-cultural ethos in its core values. I have seen Welsh local school children, charities, different ethnic backgrounds and organisations from all walks of life during my role as a Security Officer. Local people from the Association of Muslim professionals to the Autistic Society to the local woman’s forum to name a few. I feel that we have so much to offer from Ty Hywel, the Senedd and our iconic Pierhead buildings. 

Local cultures and public in general from all walks of life visit us on a daily basis and we are such a symbol of hope and prosperity. Within the last 6 months I have seen a positive change within myself and flourished in terms of commitment, resilience and being able to adjust to business needs and requirements. I have grown within myself and every day is a learning curve.

I am currently learning Welsh and have been on numerous courses.  There are so many opportunities to enhance skills and develop within my role.  I am also able to provide time to my family due to different shift patterns and work life balance. 

Being able to speak different dialects from the Asian background the joy it brings to the public and myself I felt being really helpful.  This was only possible whilst I am working for the Welsh Assembly.

The positive culture and friendly professional attitude coupled with hard work is in the heart of what we do in Security. So we are firm at the same time in touch with our customer service and adhere to a professional code at all times.

I am proud to be part of the National Assembly Security team and look forward to a long career.

The personal support I receive is the best I have seen in my entire career.  From my colleagues to my managers and senior managers the support and help I receive have been absolutely wonderful.”


Chris

Chris, Security Officer

“My responsibilities as a Security Officer vary day to day.  It’s a challenging role that requires constant vigilance and composure which is demanding yet rewarding. I witness the team ethic instilled within the department every day and a consistency that is essential for the provision of public safety. It’s great to work alongside the police and external agencies to maintain the wellbeing of all visitors and staff on the Assembly estate.

The frequency of events and role rotation keeps each day interesting, from weekly Plenary to National Eisteddfod, Champions League to Grand Slam Celebrations.  There are plenty of opportunities to develop skills by accessing on-site training or courses and I look forward to further developing my role at the Assembly.”

Stacey

Stacey, Security Officer

“Working as part of the security team is a varied role and no two days are the same. We get to engage with stakeholders across the entire organisation and with members of the public from all walks of life. We also get to be involved with the running of the political environment within the assembly working closely with the members themselves. We work a varied shift pattern which elevates the same mundane hours of work week in week out.

The role also has a training element encouraging the team to be trained in first aid, conflict management and evacuation procedures to name a few.

We also get the opportunity to work alongside prestigious events such as homecoming events for the welsh rugby team, Geraint Thomas’ homecoming and the GB Olympic teams.

There is always something to be a part of and the variety of the role is what makes it so interesting.”


Security Officers are the first point of contact for Assembly Members, staff and all visitors to the Senedd, Pierhead and Tŷ Hywel buildings.  They must be able to provide first class customer service, along with the necessary skills to protect the people, property and equipment within the estate.


We are currently recruiting for new Security Officers.

Find out more or make an application on our recruitment pages.

National Apprenticeship Week 2019

Three young people outside the Senedd
Three of the Assembly’s former apprentices outside the Senedd

Emily Morgan, who now works for our Estates and Facilities Management team, talks about her experience at the Assembly…

After completing an art foundation diploma in Glamorgan University I took a gap year to hopefully pave a career for myself.  I was considering going to university to study art when I became aware of the opportunity to become an Apprentice in the National Assembly for Wales.  I automatically knew I should apply as I knew that the Assembly was an exemplary employer.

I completed an application form using the STAR technique and sent it off with the hope of being successful. To my delight I was invited to attend an assessment centre where I was required to undergo a number of assessments specific to the post. The moment I arrived I was made to feel very welcome by the HR team. I was initially very nervous, but my nerves were soon put to rest by the friendly staff around me. After the assessment centre I was invited to interview. I attended my first panel interview and was made to feel at ease by the interview panel straight away. I received a letter a week later informing me that I had been successful, and that I had become an Apprentice! Needless to say I was overwhelmed and very excited!

During my induction, I was welcomed by my head of service, my team and my line manager. I was placed in the Resources group which consists of Human Resources, Governance and Audit and Financial Services. I have worked mainly within Human Resources; where I was based predominantly in the learning and development team and the recruitment team.

Throughout my Apprenticeship I have gained Essential Skills, an NVQ qualification, valuable work experience and some fantastic memories. The Apprenticeship scheme was the best decision I have ever made. I have gained a wealth of administrative experience and have made friends for life. After passing my NVQ and my team support interview, I gained employment in Commission and Member Support as a team support. I have since received further promotion and am now settling into my role as an Executive Officer in Estates and Facilities Management.  

For the first time I have realised that University is not necessarily the only path into employment. The Apprenticeship scheme has taken me down a different path, but it has definitely been the right one for me.

Find out more: Apprenticeships at the National Assembly for Wales​​​

Accounts Scrutiny – What’s it all about?

The Public Accounts Committee will spend a significant part of the Autumn term undertaking accounts scrutiny for the Welsh Government, National Assembly for Wales Commission, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, and the National Museums Wales.

What is Account Scrutiny?

The annual scrutiny of accounts by the Public Accounts Committee involves the consideration of the accounts and annual reports of different public funded bodies, to consider see whether there are any unusual or unclear items of expenditure of public money.  In addition to looking at how these organisations spend money, the Committee also considers how they are run and whether their governance arrangements are appropriate and accountable.

Why do it?

Although this approach can appear a little dull, this is an important piece of work because it ensures that there is scrutiny of how public money is being spent. It also provides an opportunity to hold to account those tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the expenditure of public money.

Accounts and Annual reports not only provide an important snapshot of the financial health of these publicly funded organisations they also tell a story about how the organisation is being run and whether there are robust governance structures and working practices in place or not.

By undertaking this scrutiny annually, the Committee has been able to build a deterrence factor into its work, with organisations responsible for spending our money knowing they could be called before the Committee to face public scrutiny.

Does it work?

The Committee has been doing this work for a number of years now, and generally we have seen an improvement in the information available, and in ensuring that it is more accessible. In particular, many organisations have risen to the challenge of presenting this often complex information in a more understandable format.

In addition to the more general improvements, the Committee has also brought to light a number of areas of concern which have been subject to greater scrutiny and ultimately an improvement in practices – and have generated media coverage such as:

Why consider these bodies?

At the beginning of the fifth Assembly, the Committee agreed to consider the accounts and annual report of the Welsh Government and the Assembly Commission annually. It took this decision because the Welsh Government has an annual budget of over £15 billion, which is a significant sum of public money. While the Assembly Commission is the corporate body which provides support for the National Assembly for Wales, and its Members, (so ultimately the Committee) – and so the Committee felt it was important to not sit above scrutiny.

For 2017-18, the Committee will be considering the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Annual Report and Accounts and National Museum Wales.  The Committee has previously considered the Accounts and Annual Report of these two organisations.  Hopefully, the recommendations by the previous Public Accounts Committee will have helped these organisations to make improvements and there will now be a positive story to tell.

Get Involved

Do you have any questions you would like asked about how these organisations have been run over the last year?

Do you have any concerns about how funds have been allocated?

What question would you ask those responsible for spending public money?

Let us know: @seneddpac / @seneddarchwilio
Seneddpac@assembly.wales

Our Accounts Scrutiny starts on Monday 8 October 2018 when we look at the Accounts and Annual Report of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and the Assembly Commission.