We love a project! Soon after moving in to Badgers Wood, we realised how much the garden is dependent on bees to propergate the flowers. So, we started to find out more about bees - Anna had a work colleague who kept them in her backyard in Northcote, we went on a bee course and learnt about natural beekeeping, we joined a local bee group and we read numerous books. Bees are very interesting and there is lots to learn.
So, we have installed our Kenyan top-bar hive towards the bottom of the garden. Mostly, they are left to do their thing, but every few weeks through summer we inspect the hive, add more bars and dream of harvesting some honey. The first year they flourished and we took out 20kg of honey to give to our friends and neighbours. However, a wet spring last year reduced their ability to produce honey. and so we did not harvest at all Given our variable seasons, it is hard to tell whether the bees have made a difference to the flowers in the garden. We like to think they have.
The bee saga continues
Bees numbers are declining worldwide, largely due to the pesticides that we use. So, we now weed manually and spray roses etc with eco-friendly products. We want to keep our bees naturally, with as little interference as possible. That is one of the reasons we chose a top-bar hive, where the bees build their own comb that hangs beautifully from the bar.
One aspect of natural beekeeping is letting the bees reproduce naturally - which is when they swarm. This is when the huddle around a queen and hang usually off a branch or some other structure while they look for a good home. We found a swarm in one of our neighbours trees and boxed it up to donate to the next person on the swarm waiting list from our bee group. However, Mike was stung during the process and has since learned that he is allergic to bees! He is now in charge of honey and candle production.