In Praise Of Honeybees (And Beekeepers)

In Praise Of Honeybees (And Beekeepers)

Spare a thought for beekeepers at this time of year. May to July is officially swarming season, and the volunteer members of the British Beekeepers Association are busy answering distress calls from households all over the country, all of whom are wondering what they should do about the humming mass of honeybees in their back garden.

If you have ever come close to a swarm of honeybees, with its precise symmetry and humming dedication, it is a miracle to behold. Thousands of worker bees surround their queen, protecting her and keeping warm, waiting for news from scout bees of a new place to build a nest. Their teamwork is selfless, their commitment to the cause all-encompassing.


Bee swarms are part of the natural evolution of a honeybee colony and come at a moment when a new queen (or an old one) leaves the nest in order to set up a new colony. They should be treated with extreme care and respect. Often they will disperse to a new location of their own accord, but members of the BBKA are on hand to collect and relocate the swarms where possible.

Of course, any help that we can give to the honeybee population is hugely important. Collecting a swarm and rehousing it in a hive will mean that the new colony will have a safe and protected environment in which to thrive. It also makes it less likely that the bees will go and cause a nuisance elsewhere, by setting up shop in a chimney pot or adventure playground.

Bees are vital to our planet, and yet their population is in steady decline. Menaced by habitat loss and climate change, and plagued by pollution, these highly evolved custodians of our environment need as much help as we can give them. 


“Honestly, bees are extraordinary, they are creative, industrious, cooperative, and community-minded; moreover, as they pursue their rather exemplary lives, they are as a side effect, ensuring the pollination of millions of flowers, without which we humans would be desperately pushed to feed ourselves. Let’s look after them.”

- Emma Bridgewater

Let’s think about our gardens and window boxes as bee-friendly spaces. Plant then up with pollinator-friendly plants like comfrey and honeysuckle. As a continuation on from No Mow May, let’s leave the lawn weeds to flower, like dandelion and clover, to flower, and encourage other native wildflowers into the garden. And let’s plant pollen-rich flowers and think about having a wide range of flowering times in our gardens to look after the bees as best we can from early spring to late autumn when they will go into hibernation.