Do you remember last year when times were simpler and none of our worries contained the prospect of spending months in lockdown? Simpler times..... Well there I was just before Christmas choosing presents for my nearest and dearest when I spotted the perfect present for myself. No, pause a moment, I need to rewind further back a little in this story though before going forward any further.
I have long thought I would love to keep bees. There is a slight issue in that I am scared of them and also have no idea what to do with them. I do not want to 'farm' bees for their honey, I just wanted to have some I could watch and just 'bee' with (it had to be done). I read around different types of bee keeping and read that there are people who keep honey bees with very little interaction, but still this felt too outside of my comfort zone to attempt.
So there I was just before Christmas, choosing presents for my nearest and dearest and I spotted the perfect present for myself. A bee villa. A bee villa for bumble bees. I had joined the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust last year and knew that bumble bees are in decline and yet massively important to our plants and flowers and pollination. I bought the villa and it arrived just before Christmas with the voucher I had to send off to order the bees. In January I sent off the voucher and fairly quickly received the call to organise delivery. The bees would be delivered sometime in May and I chose Chelsea week as I knew I would be off work that week so could be at home for them. Little did I know that there would be no Chelsea and nowhere else for me to be.
The bees arrived, the man who delivered them said they were definitely alive as they were buzzing. Gosh were they buzzing! When I mentioned on Twitter that they had arrived a couple of people mentioned to me the Sylvia Plath poem 'The arrival of the bee box' where Sylvia refer to them as a 'box of maniacs'. I had forgotten about this poem and was delighted to be reminded. It feels very apt. I had already placed the villa in position at the top of the garden (sheltered and out of full afternoon sun) so I carried the buzzing box carefully up the garden and popped it carefully inside. I had to wait at least thirty minutes to let them calm down before opening the little door to release them.
I made a coffee and waited, then after the thirty minutes had elapsed I carefully made my way to the villa and very carefully slid open the little door. Almost immediately a bee popped out, looked a bit confused and wandered back in. I stood a little further off so I could watch. The instructions said that the bees would slowly emerge, map the garden and then start to collect pollen. After a long minute or so a couple more bees started to wander out of the villa and explore their new home and so I left them to it.
Later in the day I went back and to my delight a bee was just making its way back into the hive. A couple of days on and I have a new routine in my days. I go and say good morning to them as my first thing in the garden and I go and say good night before I go inside at the end of the day. After the first full day in the garden the bee activity increased. They started coming in and out routinely. This was a huge relief as at first they seemed quiet and I wondered if they were ok. Now every day this activity increases. In the first few days I might have to wait a minute to see a bee appear, now they are constantly coming in and out, like, well, like busy bees.....
I love bumble bees, I always have. There is something about their shape that makes me think they are very un-aerodynamic. They look furry and I am pretty sure that when they leave the hive they exit the little door with a 'fwop' type noise.
I have started wandering the garden looking at the bees on flowers asking 'are you one of mine?' to every bee I meet.
|nope - not you|
|No, not you either|
Some of them might be(e) ....
The bees I bought are British bred Bombus terrestris audax, the buff-tailed bumble bee. They only live a few months and do not overwinter. The Queen will leave the nest and lay eggs for a new colony next year. They will not return to the hive and so yes, this is an indulgence. People keep asking me what are they going to do? They will be adding to the pollinators in my garden but it is a one year thing and if I want to do it again next year I will have to buy more bees (yes of course I will be doing it again). I am just happy to be sharing my garden with them. I call them my bees but I do not regard them really as mine, they are welcome guests.
....and they are such a welcome distraction in these lockdown days. If I had known when I bought them what joy they would bring I would not have hesitated for a second.