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Our Beehives


Sustainable Beekeeping
At Wild Garden Seeds

Our orchard apiary contains 5 hives of honeybees. The bees are managed using sustainable beekeeping methods and without impacting other wild pollinators. Our bees help to pollinate local fruit trees, farm crops and many wild flowers in our area. 



History
Honeybees throughout history have always been a valuable resource and have been kept by humans since ancient times. For thousands of years the products of the beehive have been harvested and used in many different ways, whether it be: honey and propolis for food and medicinal purposes or beeswax for candles and preserving. Beehives have taken many forms during this time, from the clay pipe hives used in ancient Egypt, to the log hives in eastern Europe or the mud hives in Siberia - and many more besides, all provided homes for kept bee colonies. In Britain until the 19thc, colonies of bees were kept in straw "Skep" hives and it was only towards the latter part of the century that wooden movable frame hives were introduced, in particular the double walled "WBC" hive invented by William Broughton Carr in c1890, the design of which is still in use today.


"Skep" Hive

"WBC" Hive

"National" Hive

However, the majority of managed bees in the UK are housed in cedar wood movable frame hives with the "National" hive design being the most popular. This simple, if not so quaint hive, emulates approximately the space needed by a colony of bees in the wild and affords easy access to the colony by a beekeeper if required.

The Lifecycle Of The Honeybee
A colony of bees is made up of three kinds of bee: one queen, many thousands of female worker bees and a few hundred male drone bees. It is the queen bee that lays both the male and female eggs within the hive and she will live up to about 6 years. The worker bees, as the name suggests, are responsible for the gathering of nectar and pollen. They are also responsible for producing the propolis and wax for the creation of the bee nest itself. Drone bees have only one purpose and that is to mate with queen bees, they have no duties within the hive and are fed by the workers.

The life cycle of a worker bee is relatively short, anything between 6 and 8 weeks, except at the end of summer a remarkable thing happens, the "winter bees" are born. Unlike the spring and summer bees these winter bees will live considerably longer in some cases up to 6 months due to a slightly different physiology. It is these winter bees that will keep the colony going not just through winter but also into the early part of the year when the queen commences laying eggs again and the spring flowers begin to appear. 

Honeybees In Britain
The wild honeybee population in Britain no longer exists as it once did in the past. Current pests, diseases and the loss of habitat mean that honeybees are virtually non existent in the wild and therefore nearly all bee colonies are looked after by beekeepers. 

Wild Garden Seeds Beehives
Here at Wild Garden Seeds we have 5 National beehives which are located in our fruit orchard in rural Monmouthshire. From spring onwards the bees can freely access our fruit tree blossoms of Apple, Pear, Damson and Plum whilst also foraging across local meadows and farm crops. Typical wild flowers in this area which the bees have been observed visiting are: borage, white & red clover, cornflowers, oxeye daisy, yellow rattle, cowslips and many more. Our bees are looked after by our own beekeeper John, who has been a beekeeper for many years and has a wealth of experience and knowledge of bees.

Beekeeper John

We keep bees for the following reasons: to help contribute to a healthy presence of honeybees in the UK, for study and educational purposes, to help with pollination and to provide a safe, pest and disease free home for colonies to flourish.

Sustainable Beekeeping
Our bees are managed on a not for profit basis using sustainable beekeeping methods utilizing the 5 following key principals:

  • No bee exploitation - no sales of hive products: honey, beeswax, propolis or pollen.
  • Minimal colony intervention (hive inspections undertaken only when absolutely necessary)  
  • To maintain a small apiary of bees so as not to impact other local wild pollinators
  • To assist in the pollination of local fruit trees, farm crops and wild flowers.
  • No importation of bees - we encourage the natural breeding and reproduction of local bees

Throughout the year we update this page with information about our bees, check back regularly to see more. 

Autumn Update 17/10/21.

After a disappointing summer the weather picked up enough in September for the bees to enjoy some late season foraging. They were very busy making up for lost time in August, and with the winter fast approaching, as much stores as possible need to be laid in. Large amounts of pollen were observed being brought into the hives and some nectar too. The queen bees have now all stopped laying eggs and this will remain so until February of next year.

As the bees prepare for winter, our beekeeper John starts insulating parts of the hives in readiness for the cold temperatures ahead. Although not strictly necessary, adding a layer of insulation gives the bees a helping hand. The hives can't be opened during this period, so if temperatures drop to unusually low levels, it would be too late to intervene and some colonies could fail. This "belt & braces" approach gives the bees the best chance of surviving a harsh winter should such a thing happen - although winters of late have proved particularly mild.

When the days become colder, bees fly less and less and inside the hive they form a tight ball shape to retain heat. Between the months of December to January a stillness and silence falls over the hives, a world apart from the busy buzzing of the summer months. This period is of the most concern, if the bees have not brought in enough stores or it becomes too cold for them to move about and access them, they could starve.   

 

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