helping honey bees

Hi - I've just joined your community and I have two questions I can't seem to find the answers to. Hopefully you can help?

1) 'm looking for advice on providing bee homes. I don't actually want to get into beekeeping, honey collecting etc. I would just like to provide a safe space in my garden, in which honey bees can go about their business. I recently watched Kate Humble on her latest TV series and she mentioned a honeybee house which did not require human intervention but instead allowed the bees to keep/use all of their honey in order to safely overwinter. Can anyone give me more precise details of this product, so that I can buy it online?

2) For the last two years, I have put up bee houses which have been very successful with both leaf cutter and mason bees. I have now read  that these off-the-shelf bought homes can be a source of disease for the very creatures I'm trying to help, due to the potential for mites either stealing the pollen stores left for the young - or even attacking the young as they develop. The suggestion is that the homes should be cleaned out and sanitized once one lot of residents have vacated and before a new crowd move in. But my experience both years has been that the houses are never completely empty of bees to enable this 'spring clean', as existing bees are populating any vacant holes left over from the previous year, even before the newly emerging bees are ready to leave their winter cells. The constant 'crossover' of residents makes hygiene efforts almost impossible to carry out. Any thoughts on how I might resolve this?

It may be that no one on this particular site can advise me. In which case, can you recommend any other  more 'bee specific' sites I might try?

Many thanks for taking the time to read this....



  • Hi, I can recommend this person who has a Twitter site ...


     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr

  • Hi,

    I've got a couple of mason bee tubes, incl a homemade one. I've not heard of the need to clean them out and not noticed an issue in the twenty years since I started. Not doubting the accuracy, but would be interested in reading what you found. Is it something online or in a book? Many designs, esp home made ones, would be very difficult to clean.

    I do get a couple of parasitic wasps in particular, but I leave it to nature to a large extent. I just bring the nest tubes under cover once the leaf cutters have just about finished, to keep any later wasp attacks away.

    I can't help re honey bees, sorry. Still getting to know what works with bumblebees before expanding my species. Seem to already be a lot of honey bees here.

  • You don't mention what garden you have, if any, so this may not be the best to share, but I will anyway.

    Plants are a good aid to bees, and if you search around, there are many different ones you can grow.

    Early spring, the daffodils see a lot of bees visiting, I also have lavender and erysimum for spring and summer flowering, the bees generally speaking do frequent them a lot, and for autumn constant cheer.

    I've had honeybees, buff tailed and white tailed bees, plus a few more I've struggled to identify, that may not be bees but other similar insects.


    Flickr Peak Rambler

  • In reply to Robbo:

    Hi Robb, thanks for coming back to me.
    This site is just one example of the info I have been uncovering re. the dangers of bee houses:
    But I have also recently read an article citing the same problem in either The Telegraph or the The Times. As several of my new bees were visible just inside their cells - but were obviously dead - I removed the bodies to discover that they were partly eaten away. Seems likely these attacks occurred after death, but am concerned they were under attack while alive. And would mites have been the culprit?
    I got a lot of enjoyment out of watching the mason and leaf-cutter bees working away last summer. Have put the whole bee house in my garden shed over the winter, as I did the first year, But am now very demoralised to think I may be doing bees more harm than good,... and still not sure how I can clean boxes out, when they are continually in use - either hosting newly emerging bees, or existing bees busily taking up residence in recently vacated cells.
  • In reply to beewelcome:

    Thanks for sharing. I knew pests were an issue, but I just assumed it was something that was just nature and acceptable losses at the fringes. I have always left the individual tubes inside the main structures. I will have a closer look at the tubes early in the New Year to make sure there aren’t pest infestations. Hopefully someone more qualified can help with your questions.
  • Sorry no one has replied since I last posted. Forum is extremely quiet and probably never had many fluent in honey bees or bee houses. Certainly no harm trying Bumblebee Trust as Wendy said, if you haven't already. There is BBKA too which may be willing to advise.
  • In reply to Mike B:

    Hello Mike.
    I've just logged on to find that my reply to you of 6th doesn't seem to have landed. No doubt I've made some error while responding to you, so trying again....
    Just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your heads-up regarding planting. I have a small and very shaded garden - central patch of grass (which I intend to retain, as birds enjoy it), a couple of fairly small beds for plants and three 'ornamental' trees, one of which is a cherry and all of which reduce the amount of direct sunlight I experience.
    So inevitably hostas, hellebores, etc are planted, due to low sunlight levels. Have potted scabious, salvias, heucheras where there is more sun on my deck. Also have 3 well established climbers - jasmine, honeysuckle and solanum which flower lots.
    Will certainly pot up some heather and intended to plant up some large pots with spring bulbs, for the first time. Just haven't managed to get around to that! Also wondered about getting a couple of half barrels and planting them out with wildflower seeds...anything to help the bees!
    Thanks for your advice.
  • In reply to WendyBartter:

    Many thanks for this information, Wendy. Will certainly follow it up.
  • In reply to Robbo:

    Hello again Robbo.
    As Wendy suggested, I have made contact with Bumblebee Conservation Trust and although this group hasn't been able to help with my specific search, their website is full of lots of useful imformation around bees, which I shall certainly be revisiting.
    Meanwhile.....Kate Humble's farm team has come back with contact details for the person-free honeybee house!
    Not cheap at £95, but a really nice Christmas gift for my husband, who is also becoming fascinated by these fabulous little creatures. Should you want to know more about it, the link is below. Thanks again for showing interest - much appreciated!
  • Many thanks for the link to the bee house, may well treat my Niece as she is well into gardening for wildlife & all that it involves!
    Do hope you get answers to all your questions from BCT & it's knowledgeable contributors!


     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr