Bees are the golden angel-engines of nature. Under severe threat from our agricultural practices, you can provide them a safe haven in your garden or even better, get yourself a bee box and groovy white outfit!
Here are some remarkable facts:
They pollinate 76% of the world’s crops and add £690m to the UK economy each year.
Every year a hive can produce up to 11 kg of honey, and to produce just half a kg they fly up to 55,000 miles to find the flowers!
There are over 250 UK species of bee but are under threat from spraying of crops and loss of habitat. On an organic farm, there can up to 75% more bees due to the lack of insecticide spraying.
There are six different bee families found in Sussex. The Colletidae bee is one of the most species-rich families within the clade Anthophila, holding roughly 2,000 species. The Andrenidae are medium-sized solitary mining bees. The females excavate tunnels in the soil that branch off to individual cells that the female stocks with pollen balls and nectar, on which she lays her eggs. There may be one or two generations per year. The Halictidae are one of the six bee families in the order Hymenoptera. They are often referred to as sweat bees as they are attracted to sweat of animals! They typically are more abundant than most bees with the exception of Apis (honey bee) species.
Melittidae bees are short-tongued. Megachilidae bees nest in beetle borings in dead trees in the wild, and these can be mimicked to provide a place for them to nest. The Apidae are the largest family within the superfamily Apoidea, containing at least 5700 species of bees. The family includes some of the most commonly seen bees, including bumblebees and honey bees, but also includes stingless bees (also used for honey production), carpenter bees, orchid bees, cuckoo bees, and a number of other less widely known groups. Many are valuable pollinators in natural habitats and for agricultural crops.
If you’re looking to share your love for bees, why not join the West Sussex Beekeepers Association. There are four divisions; Central Sussex, Chichester, Wisborough Green and Worthing so depending on where you live in the county you won’t be too far from one.
If you are new to the world of bees this is the association to join, they offer support in a variety of ways. If you plan to start beekeeping you should attend their apiary meetings, this is where you will learn how to correctly handle bees.
What do you need to start beekeeping?
After joining the West Sussex Beekeepers Association and attending their meetings you need to think where you want to keep your bees. Good places are; in your garden, on a roof and at a nearby apiary.
Don’t worry if you’re concerned about the cost of equipment to get up and running. The association offers second hand equipment so it means you are able to get started quickly. You will need to get; a hive, hive frames with a wax foundation, a one-piece bee suit, gloves and wellington boots for basic personal protection, a smoker, a hive tool, and a nucleus.
Local Sussex honey has many benefits: it is rich in antioxidants and it’s traditionally used to help relieve coughs and colds. Like all honey, it has antiseptic qualities and can be used on small cuts and grazes. And there is nothing like fresh white bread, butter and your own honey dripping down the sides.
A word of cushion here: Honey bees tend to take away habitats and food from UK native bees so while they are important, if you wish to create add to wildlife conservation, try building more homes for native bees inside of keeping an aviary.
What plants should you plant in your garden to attract Sussex bees?
The Allium siculum, has a very unusual appearance which drips nectar that is very popular amongst bees, in particular the red-tailed bumblebees.
Apple trees are favoured by queens during April and May and crab apples tend to draw them in the most due to their fragrant and attractive flowers.
Aquilegia, Penstemon and Foxgloves have their nectar at the end of their very long tubes which means long-tongued bees, such as Bombus hortorum bees will visit.
If you’re wanting an easy to grow plant the Borage plant is the one for you. It attracts short tongued bumblebees and honeybees with its rich, sweet nectar and you can use the petals to spice up your salads. Early Spring bulbs help in the early months, and then garden favourites can feed them for the rest of the growing season: Lavender, Teasels, Hawthorn, Heather, Sedums, Rosmary and Honeysuckle.
Double flowering plants like Roses and Dahlias are either hard to penetrate or very poor in nectar for bees.
Did you know?
The 20th of May has been declared as ‘World Bee Day by the UN General Assembly to raise awareness of the essential role of bees.
The solitary bee (Halictus eurygnathus) , thought to be extinct, has been discovered after 76 years at seven sites in Sussex!
Honeybees have a dance move called the ‘waggle dance’. It’s not actually a dance move at all, but rather a clever way of communicating between themselves to tell their hive mates where to go to find the best source of food. It took the researchers at Sussex University two years to decode the waggle dance and the bees can indicate where the best flowers are up to 6km away.
Why should we care about Bees?
Almost 90% of wild plants and 75% of leading global crops depend on animal pollination. One out of every three mouthfuls of our food depends on pollinators. Crops that depend on pollination are five times more valuable than those that do not.
What should you do if you see a bee that appears to be struggling?
It may be that it is just resting, particularly if the bee is a queen in early spring. If you think the bee is struggling the best thing to do is gently put the bee onto a bee-friendly flower. If there are no bee-friendly flowers around, mix 50/50 white sugar and water to give the bumblebee a one-off energy boost, providing the carbohydrates it needs to fly. Simply offer a drop or two of sugar water up to the front end of the bee on a teaspoon or an upturned drinks cap in a sheltered place and allow the bee time to recuperate.
Where can you try some local Sussex honey?
- South Brockwells Farm
- Westons Farm Shop
- Wilderness Lane Honey
- Spring Barn Honey
Where to go in October
Plenty of bees in this place
This is a good time to visit the Knepp estate. Isabella Tree’s pioneering work to rewind a part of West Sussex. You can turn up at the car park (before 5.30pm) and you will be given a map of the rewilded areas. Ring for more information on 014037412235.
What to do in your garden in October
Now is the time to move plants around the garden or plant up new ones.
The soil is still warm for the roots to establish but there is less chance of the plants drying out.
You can divide most Perennials now including Rhubarb and balance up your garden by taking the other half to a different place.
You can still plant lettuce and can start sowing Chinese winter greens and Spring Cabbage.
Repairing your lawn can start now with the cooler weather, either using pre grown turfs or seeding into prepared earth.
Your lawn treatment can start this month with aerating the garden with a strong fork and raking out moss and thatch.
Lastly, you can cut back shrubs like Buddlea and Lavatera to about half their height to neaten them up and prevent strong winter winds rocking them about- the more fundamental pruning happens in Spring
Perfect time to order and plant bulbs.