What is the significance of bees in the wider environment and what do they do that is so unique?
Bees go out into their environment in their hunt for food which means collecting nectar from flowers, and by doing so they are helping pollinate the different flowers and blossoms which in turn produces more seeds or fruits, which carries on the lifecycle of nature. They are a key part of the environment. With bees, you get back what you put in, so by looking after them and making sure they have everything they need, will pay dividends for years to come.
2. Why is the bee population declining?
One of the key factors is simply due to a loss of habitat. Increased building work for housing means that there are less wild areas left naturally for the bees and other wildlife to thrive in. Domestic gardens are kept very tidy when actually sometimes it would be good to leave a corner to go wild for the bees. Intensively farmed land is also a problem for the bee population, with the use of pesticides that spread not just onto the fields but to the edges and into the hedgerows that kill off grubs, caterpillars, aphids which then has a knock on effect on the wider food chain.
What can we do to help? Talk about bee houses, water sources, We could all do our bit to help.
Bees require a lot of water, so a bird bath with sloping sides would be ideal. They use water in the hive to keep the hive cool, the bees collect the water and take it back to the hive, which then evaporates cooling the hive.
Bumblebees like to live underground or in little nooks and crannies around the garden – a shoe sized box left in a corner of the garden won’t take up much room but will provide shelter for a bumblebee. Leave a wild corner in your garden for wildlife.
What sorts of flowers can we plant in our gardens to encourage bees?
Bees need flowers all year round if possible. In the summer they have a choice, but we can really help the pollinators by planting early spring flowers for example, snowdrops and crocuses, and thinking about autumn flowers like sedums and heathers. Also think about trees that have blossoms and catkins – bees love these types of things.
What should we avoid using in our gardens to help the bee population thrive?
Avoid excessive use of the lawnmower, just cut a footpath strip and leave the rest. Also avoid planting too many double flowers – they do look pretty, but too many petals make access difficult for bees as they can’t crawl in to get to the nectar and pollen. Also try and avoid using weed killers where possible – dig up the weeds instead of spraying them. Gardeners won’t like this, but dandelions are much loved by bees!!
6. What do you love about bees?
What I love about bees is that the majority are women, therefore they always keep you on your toes.
7. What made you want to go into bee keeping?
My first interest in bees started when I was a child, I have always been interested in gardening and flowers and they just all go together so well.
8. We understand that the number of hives has significantly expanded at Rhug in recent months – why is that?
There has always been a demand for Rhug honey, and it sells out every year. In order to try and keep up with demand, and with the honey an beeswax now being used in the Wild beauty collection, we have increased the number of hives on the estate to around 50 hives.
9. What is special about the honey produced at Rhug?
Honey at Rhug comes from the diverse wild flowers and forage found on the estate, Rhug being an organic farm has many advantages, there is plenty of space for the animals and the fields are of a good size, not over farmed and benefit from hedgerows which provide homes for lots of insects and animals.
Nectar, which is around 80% water and becomes concentrated down by the bees to below 20% to produce honey. It is very important for bees to have access to clean water – not only for their health, but for the quality of the honey. Rhug is situated in the Dee valley in a beautiful part of Wales where we get plenty of rain, which lands on the organic soil, which in turn feeds the plants, which feeds the bees who makes the honey, it all just makes sense.
The honey varies according to the season and as the weather so is different all the time , the bees have to go to different flowers and plants to get nectar and so the honey flavours will change according to that.
10. We read that there are 75% more bees on organic farms..
Absolutely. This is due to everything we have mentioned – less intensive farming, more space for wild flowers to grow, where the balance of the environment is in harmony with itself. Allowing indigenous plants to grow and thrive, planning ahead to ensure that the farms are in tune with the seasons and not using pesticides.