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Beekeepers by proxy

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.

Tree bees – or bombus hypnorum if you want to sound posh

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

The bees are back in town

Last year we were pleasantly surprised to find Tree Bees nesting in our bird box. Apparently they are quite rare, so we were quite smug that they’d chosen our garden to camp out in.

Tree bees in the bird box

Anyway, after a couple of months of nerdily telling everyone about our beekeeping venture (well, bee keeping may have been a slight exaggeration), they upped and offed without a by your leave and we never saw them again. Gutted!

Last week, I thought a couple of blue tits had their eye on the bird box, and deciding to give them a helping hand with moving in, I took the bottom off the box to give it a quick tidy up. A ball of fluff dropped to the ground, and 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) and carefully 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 action in there, so hopefully all is not lost.

Only a couple of weeks ago I was investigating  keeping bees, and have to say the honey extraction slightly put me off – it all seemed a lot more involved than I probably had time for.

Therefore, it’s great that the bees have decided to return, as I get all the pomp and grandeur of keeping bees, without any of the work!

We’ve been to The Edible Garden Show

On Saturday my friend and I went to the Edible Garden Show, and I have to say, had a jolly good time.

We had a nice chat with the beekeeping society, as I’ve quite fancied having a go with bees in the past. We kept bees last summer, but completely by accident: a colony of tree bees camped out for a few months in the bird box. Just at the point where I was nerdily going on about my bees to anyone who’d listen, they upped and offed one day, never to be seen again.

I digress… On speaking to the bee man, I’ve decided that keeping real bees is a bit more involved than I’d thought. I would 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 seems like a lot of work. True, you can borrow the equipment from the club, but you’d still have to fetch it, take it back, clean it all down, jar the honey… you get the picture. We have some honey in the fridge that’s been there for six months, so honey is evidently not on our ‘must eat on a regular basis’ list.

From there we went to see Pippa Greenwood giving a demonstration on which vegetables to grow, and what to watch out for. Very informative indeed… According to the Pip-Meister, tomatoes are a relatively easy crop to try. She suggests that if you’re growing tomatoes, have a go at aubergines, as they need the same conditions, albeit slightly more light (up on the shelf?) and slightly less water.

Courgettes too, are apparently a doddle, and why not try some butternut squash while you’re at it. All good, inspiring stuff to be thinking about. Then she moved on to talking about brassicas and broccoli, and she went on to say that one of the main predators for these is pigeons. It was like de-ja-vu… had she been reading the Hinckley Times last week, I wondered?

After the show we decided to find a nice country pub to have a spot of lunch in. This plan went slightly awry, as we got completely and totally lost. After driving around for an age, we eventually found a pub, and on entering realised that a) not many girlies or non-locals frequented the place and  b) the floor didn’t get washed all that often. All eyes were on us as we ordered our drinks and a portion of hearty Irish Stew (as it was St Patrick’s Day).

Having said that though, the food was actually very nice, so overall, it was a most enjoyable day out.