With just a few days to go until RHS Chelsea Flower Show begins, we have been tending to our own gardens, making a few home improvements to help both our resident and guest bees flourish.
As well as re-planting our third floor bee terrace with new flowers and plants on which our 300,000 Buckfast bees can forage, we've introduced and officially opened our very own bee hotel.
Our new 'bee hotel', the first in London, has been designed and created by our beekeeper Camilla Goddard. Formed of stylish hexagon suites, the hotel provides a home for a wide variety of bee species. Peaceful bamboo nesting areas and condominiums (modern block or traditional log style) are for solitary bees such as the leaf cutter bee, whilst the bijou boxes are for social bees like the tree bumble bee. The bee hotel also provides a variety of special areas for other helpful insects. The discerning lacewing will be enchanted by the rolled cardboard swirls, and all types of ladybirds, earwigs, woodlice and spiders will find peaceful resting places amongst the crevice stacks.
The plight of the bee is a hot topic, with the decline of bees and other pollinators posing a direct threat to the world's food supply. Do you want to do your bit to help? You don't need to build bee hotels or maintain hives to make a difference, simply planting the right plants in your garden will help.
If this year's Chelsea Flower Show inspires you to do make some horticultural home improvements, why not consider doing your bit to help combat the "global pollinator crisis", here's a few top tips:
- Different bees like different types of flowers, so the larger bumble bees like larger flowers like foxgloves and hollyhock and the smaller honey bees like lavender, ceonothus, hebe, sage and other plants generally targeting small purple flowering plants, mortar bees like catmint
- Try to block plant ie. plant clumps of one type of bee friendly plant together as bees tend to visit one type of flower per journey to and from the hive
- Bees are selecting nectar with a high sugar content depending on what is flowering and the weather too, they make this into honey, and they collect pollen to feed the larvae that become the new bees in the hive, they also make propolis to seal gaps in their hive using resins from trees
- Native species and cottage garden favourites are enjoyed by bees rather than highly bred plants or double flowering plants which make it hard to reach the nectar eg. they like sunflowers, aquilegia, cotoneaster, wallflower, scabious, rock rose, and native plants like birds foot trefoil and vipers bugloss
- They particularly enjoy herbs likes sage, chives. rosemary and thyme and will visit onion flowers, raspberries, runner bean flowers, and strawberries on the allotment.
- Avoid if possible using insecticides as these can by accident get into colonies and wipe out bees.
- Thistle type plants are popular too, like centaurea and sea holly and lesser knapweed
- There are some plants which bees are extremely keen on like honeywort, and the green manure phacelia and there are several key nectar flows in the year particularly dandelion and clover so avoid mowing these off before they have flowered.
- Think about year round flowering not just a summer season, crocus, hellebore, snow drop and ivy are important for getting the bees started with pollen when they need it to raise the first generation of bees in the new year.
- Don't forget trees they are a key source of pollen and nectar to bees in London, lime trees (English lime not citrus) apple trees, cherry trees, holly, sycamore, chestnuts and privet (don't cut your hedges before they have flowered) are favourites
- Large piles of leaves, often where they have found an entrance to a compost heaps can attract bumble bee colonies, if you can leave them they will only be there for a few months and you can clear the heap in the winter when they will be gone.
Beekeeping taster workshops - £25pp
This May, during the Chelsea Fringe, St Ermin’s Hotel will be hosting 'Bees in the Burbs' taster workshops for people keen to know more about these amazing, vital pollinators and understand how best to plant in town or country gardens to support them year round.
For those who would like to have a go at keeping bees, the workshop includes visiting and handling the hotel's 300,000 Buckfast bees, happily ensconced in their purple hives on the third floor wildflower terrace of the hotel.
Led by bee guru Camilla Goddard of Capital Bee, who is the bee keeper at St Ermin’s Hotel, each 2.5 hour workshop costs £25 per person and includes a floral cocktail in the Caxton Bar or Terrace.
Saturday 24th May - 12 noon
Saturday 31st May - 12 noon SOLD OUT
Tuesday 27th May - 6pm