Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


Back in August 2014 the National Museum Cardiff received its two newly bred colonies of honeybees.  Due to the timing of the bee keepers training and the specific needs for colonies to be bred on Deep National frames the bees arrived much later in the season than we were anticipating.  The two new “nucs” (nuclei of bees) were rehomed in new hives situated on the roof of the Museum where there is adequate space for the beekeepers to work safely and have adequate shelter from the worst of the weather. From the outset we realized that production of honey wasn’t likely to be an option in the first year with the bees putting all their efforts into building their numbers and storing adequate reserves to see them through the Welsh winter months. During September and October the bees worked hard gathering nectar and storing honey for the months ahead however even from the outset it was immediately clear that one hive was far more productive that the other. The bees in our better hive probably tripled in numbers, whereas the bees in the other hive were sulking! In late September both the hives were treated for parasitic Varroa mites and we were all astonished that so many mites were present in two relatively new colonies. Along with the Varroa treatment the bees were fed. We placed frame feeders inside the hives and fed invert syrup (a sugar syrup where the sucrose sugar has already been split into glucose and fructose thus allowing the bees to expend less energy metabolizing it). The feeding seemed to be going well until in early October approximately 600+ bees from the weaker of the two hives drowned in the feeder. This occurrence is unusual but not completely unheard of, however our sulking colony was further weakened by this unfortunate incident. Fearing for the weaker of the two colonies we readied the hives for the winter and closed them up until the spring.

The winter itself wasn’t a particularly cold one and by mid February colleagues were reporting that they had seen bees in the gardens around the museum. Reports from maintenance staff using the roof suggested that both colonies had survived and on the warmer days, were out foraging in the parks surrounding the museum. Robin and I made our first very provisional inspection on a warm sunny day in mid March. We opened the hives and took a look at the numbers of bees inside. Since the air temperature really wasn’t all that high we opted not to remove frames of bees and potentially chill any unhatched brood so instead we just observed and noted the level of activity and numbers of bees in the hives without disturbing them. The difference between the two hives was shocking! The stronger hive had 6 or 7 full frames of bees while the other had only 1 full frame! Despite the less strong hive having plentiful reserves of honey we made an immediate decision to start feeding the colony in an attempt to strengthen and hopefully resurrect it.

 In the last week of March (26th) our beekeeping mentor, Pete from Natures Little Helpers, came to do our first proper inspection.  We went through the strong hive finding the queen looking healthy and laying eggs just as she should be. The numbers of bees in this hive was already growing and the hive was filling up quickly. The weaker hive was very different, Pete initially suspected that the queen might not be present but a quick inspection of the brood area of the hive suggested that eggs were being laid and that a mated queen was present. The hunt for the queen commenced and since we didn’t have lots of bees to look through we eventually found her. She was a new queen, different to that when we got the colony and had never been marked. Our other queen carries a lovely green spot on her back making her quite obvious, however finding this unmarked queen was quite a task. What we noticed immediately was that some of the cells contained not one egg as you’d normally expect but two or three. Pete explained that this sometimes happens when there are not enough worker bees in the colony to prepare brood cells ready for the queen. These multiple laid cells were not going to be viable and ultimately no bees would result from that those eggs. In order to help this weaker colony we decided to try and reinforce the worker bee numbers by moving some frames of unhatched and juvenile bees from our rapidly growing strong hive into the weeker hive. It seems incredible that this is possible but apparently the new bees will become accustomed to the new scent of their adopted queen and switch their allegiance. We carefully, making sure not to move the queen, moved one good full frame of unhatched brood from the centre of our strong hive into the centre of the weaker hive. We then installed a homemade contact feeder  (made from a jar with a perforated top), which in the absence of syrup we filled with honey.

Our weekly inspections then began on good warm days when the wind wasn’t too strong! Keep posted for further updates from our Museum's Beekeepers.

A peregrine chick has been spotted in the nest on the clock tower of City Hall Cardiff. It appears that there is only one chick this year but after last year's breeding failure this is great news.

Why not follow how the chick gets on by watching our Peregrine cam on National Museum Cardiff or follow up dates via the @CardiffCurator Twitter page.

We've been celebrating volunteering this week as part of Volunteers' Week (1-7 of June 2015) and a big part of this for us at Amgueddfa Cymru is saying Diolch/Thank you to the people who volunteer their time with us. To say thank you this year we decided to throw a Garden Party at St Fagan's Castle, unfortunately it was raining so we ended up with a Tea Party instead!

We had bunting, flowers and a pop-up exhibition celebrating all the projects volunteers volunteer on across Amgueddfa Cymru. This included rope out of nettles, Celtic tools and booklets on the torture of witches.

 During the event our Deputy Director Mark Richards presented our Investing in Volunteers award, which we have achieved for all of our Museums across Amgueddfa Cymru, to the people who take part and are the reason behind the award; our volunteers, community partners and staff.

Paul and Anna, Samian Pottery Volunteers accepted the award on behalf of our volunteers across Amgueddfa Cymru, while Kat accepted it on the behalf of one of our Community Partners, Newlink Wales. Janet, Head of HBU accepted this on behalf of the staff who work with volunteers.

This was followed by tea, sandwiches and scones! Fortunately there was enough cake left that most of the staff at St Fagans were able to join in and have a scone or two... All in all a great party was had!

Our volunteers are an important part of our team at Amgueddfa Cymru, they add-value to our work, have fresh ideas and challenge us to be more creative. From all of the staff who work with you we would like to say a big DIOLCH!

To celebrate Volunteers' Week, Lydia Griffiths, a volunteer and Youth Forum member at Amgueddfa Cymru, talks about her research into British charity and voluntary action during the First World War through studying a collection of Flag Day badges at St Fagans National History Museum.

Voluntary action made a significant contribution to the First World War, not only in the numbers of soldiers who volunteered to fight but also the civilians on the Home Front who donated food and clothing in addition to providing medical and financial support. As part of my Art History Degree at the University of Bristol, I embarked on a dissertation to research a collection of Flag Day badges at St Fagans National History Museum and discovered a fascinating legacy of British voluntary action that can be traced to the present day.

Flag Day badges consist of paper and sometimes silk flags attached to metal pins that were simple to produce and sold for as little as a penny. They tended to be sold on specific days and in addition to being easily adapted to suit any cause, they were quickly and efficiently produced offering the contributor the opportunity to display their commitments to the war effort by simply purchasing and wearing a Flag Day badge. Many thousands of volunteers contributed to the war effort by selling and producing these badges which generated an impressive amount of money. It has been estimated that during the First World War, the Red Cross alone raised £22 million - the equivalent to £1.75 billion today - which included the selling of Flag Day badges.

The collection of Flag Day badges at St Fagans could be regarded as social signifiers indicative of a nation committed to supporting and helping those in need, a trend that continues today. There are hundreds of flags in the collection and all have their own specific purpose and underlying story, such as those that reference St Dunstan’s Day, a charity based in London which was set-up to help the blinded soldiers which is still functioning today under the title Blind Veteran UK. There are also many Red Cross related Flag Day badges and some bear the words ‘Our Days’ that reference a day dedicated specifically to fundraising for the Red Cross which has been described as the equivalent to our modern day Comic Relief and Children in Need.

Personally, I found the Russian Flag Day badges featuring the symbol of the Red Cross the most inspiring as they were established by a London based Russian Petroleum Scientist, Dr Paul Dvorkovitz, who wanted to improve the allied relationship between Russia and Great Britain. The archives in the Imperial War Museum currently have all his telegrams and diaries and they reveal that he proposed the idea that British towns across the country could hold ‘Russian Days,’ where Russian themed Flag Day badges would be sold to generate funds for the Russian war effort and in return certain Russian cities would hold similar English or British Flag Days to raise funds for Britain. In Wales, Welsh newspapers from the period report that many Russian Flag Days were held in Swansea and Cardiff which is why they appear in the collection at St Fagans. Nationally the movement raised £50,000 in 1916 that prompted the Tsarina to send a telegram to The Times newspaper thanking the British for their generosity.

Since the Great War, voluntary action and charities have emerged as hugely significant assets to British society and their importance has certainly not wavered. Without the work of volunteers many institutions across the country would struggle to survive and it is interesting to note that many of today’s volunteers could be viewed simply as following in the footsteps of our ancestors from the First World War who took it upon themselves to volunteer to fight, fundraise and work to ensure a better future for their country.     

Happy Volunteers Week!

LYDIA GRIFFITHS @lydiabranweng


Adrian Gregory, The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War (Cambridge, 2008)

Carol Harris, '1914-1918: How charities helped to win WW1' Third Sector

Imperial War Museum Archives

Peter Grant, Philanthropy and Voluntary Action in the First World War (New York, 2014)

The Times Newspaper Archives

The Spring Bulbs for Schools project allows 1000s of school scientists to work with Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales to investigate and understand climate change. School scientists have been keeping weather records and noting when their flowers open since October 2005, as part of a long-term study looking at the effects of temperature on spring bulbs.

Certificates have now been sent out to all of the 4,596 pupils that completed the project this year. See Professor Plant's report to view the finsings so far.

  • Make graphs & frequency charts or calculate the mean.
  • See if the flowers opened late in schools that recorded cold weather.
  • See how temperature, sunshine and rainfall affect the average flowering dates.
  • Look for trends between different locations.

I would like to thank all of the Super Scientists that participated this year!

Applications are now open for Spring Bulbs 2015-16.

Professor Plant