The beauty of bees
Wild Beauty by rhug's beekeeper Barry explains why bees are so important to the environment and what we can do to help them flourish
What is the significance of bees in the wider environment?
ABees 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, it will pay dividends for years to come.
Why is the bee population declining?
AOne 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 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 on to the fields but to the edges and into the hedgerows, killing off grubs, caterpillars, aphids, which then has a knock-on effect on the wider food chain.
What can we do to help?
ABees 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 flowers can we plant to encourage bees?
ABees 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 also think about autumn flowers like sedums and heathers. Don’t forget trees that have blossoms and catkins – bees love these types of things.
What should we avoid in our gardens to help bees?
AAvoid 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 to avoid using weed killers where possible – dig up the weeds instead of spraying them.
What is special about the honey produced at Rhug?
AHoney at Rhug comes from the diverse wild flowers and forage found on the estate. 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. There has always been a demand for Rhug honey and it sells out every year. Now that the honey and beeswax are being used in the Wild beauty collection – in the Replenishing Mask, Lip Treatment and Exfoliating Body Scrub, for example – we have increased the number of hives on the estate to around 50 hives.