Big is the buzzword when it comes to helping bees

October 28th 2016

Report by Richard Capewell

As the winter dark gathers, the Company’s annual RHS lecture provides a welcome opportunity to lift the spirits by thinking of next year’s gardening. And never more so than this year when the subject was the most typical sound of the summer garden – bees.

In his lecture ‘Bees Can’t Eat Kind Words’, delivered at the RHS Halls on 28th October, London beekeeper Dale Gibson told us of the excitements and challenges facing urban beekeepers. In recent years London has become the home of a very active beekeeping fraternity. They have been responsible for a huge growth in the number of hives which produce a high quality honey.

Although we’ve known the concern about varroa, pesticides and monoculture in the countryside, Dale explained that lack of forage for the bee was the biggest problem in London. As gardeners, he exhorted us to do all we could to promote the planting of suitable food sources, in public space as well as our own gardens.

Whilst every little helps of course, Dale gave us his top tips for sustainable planting to help our bees. Plan for an extended flowering season. Reduce mowing. Remember that bees see blue and purple best. Don’t see wildflower meadows as a magic bullet, especially if sustaining their maintenance and productivity in future years is likely to be problematic. Think big – shrubs and, even better, trees, such as a lime. Keep plants simple, as bees have short tongues. And, finally, clump plants – it conserves the bees’ energy as it means they can fly less to gather more.

With food for thought on food for the bees, naturally food for ourselves was needed. Fortunately arrangements had been made at the nearby The Grange Rochester Hotel. Joined by our lecturer and guests, including the Master of the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers, a keen bee-keeper himself, we repaired there to continue the discussion over a traditional supper.

The Master accepts a jar of local honey from London beekeeper Dale Gibson.
The Master accepts a jar of local honey from London beekeeper Dale Gibson.