I’ve often toyed with the idea of having a bee hive (not the hairdo), and on a recent outing to the Edible Garden Show, had a nice little chat with a chap from the Bee-keeping Association to find out more. On speaking to him, I’ve decided that keeping bees may be slightly more involved than I have time for.
I’d quite enjoy the ‘prancing around in a white suit’ bit, and would probably wear my beekeeper’s hat at a jaunty little angle just for the fun of it, but the actual honey extraction would seem to take a little more effort. True, you can borrow the equipment, but you’d still have to fetch it, assemble it, extract and jar the honey, clean it all down, take it back… I’d have lost interest by about Step 4.
Last year we were bee-keepers purely by accident when a colony decided to camp out in the bird box. After much rootling around on the ‘tinterweb, they transpired to be Tree Bees – a type of bee that was first spotted in 2001, and has spread further north each year since then. After much excitement and jumping about at the fact we had rare ‘uns, we registered them on the Bumble Bee Conservation website, so the rest of the world could share in our wonder. The confirmation from BeeWatch (do they identify bees sporting red swimmies and bad 80’s hair, I wonder) was that they were indeed, bombus hypnorum.
So last summer the veg plot was blooming, everything was getting pollinated to within an inch of its life, and we were proudly showing the bees off to all who visited our garden, announcing in a nerdy voice “Yes, they are Tree Bees, you know… quite rare indeedy”. It has to be said, we were in our element.
Imagine our dismay when a couple of months later, without a by your leave, they buzzed off to pastures new. To this day we have no idea where they went, or why – perhaps they upgraded to a bigger property.
Last week, thinking a couple of blue tits had their eye on the bird box, I decided to give them a helping hand with moving in. Taking the bottom off to give it a spruce up, a ball of fluff dropped to the ground. A quick poke with a stick revealed a comb-like structure, a couple of bees and the Queen. They’d obviously slipped back in unnoticed.
After guiding the Queen back into the box, I donned my beekeeping outfit (aka my gardening gloves), gingerly put the nest back in the box, and put the bottom back in place.
Hoping I’d not disturbed the budding colony too much, I tentatively watched the bird box over the next couple of days. Yesterday, there was definite bee activity in there, so it looks like all’s not lost. It’s great that the bees have decided to return, as I get all the excitement and interest of keeping bees, without any of the work!
This was in The Hinckley Times on 10 May