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

  • 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 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.
  • 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

  • There's a bunch of different bees being mixed up here, it's better to separate them out a little bit :-)

    Firstly, honey bees need no help whatsoever - quite the opposite. If anything, there are too many honey bees in the UK and they are not in any danger as a species. They are the insect equivalent of a chicken :-)

    It's become a bit of a thing in recent years to put hives in all sorts of places - on top of buildings in cities for example - but all that is doing is adding tens of thousands of extra mouths to feed into an area likely already poor in foodstuffs. As there are so many honey bees in a hive, they will out-compete many of the solitary and bumble bees that ARE in real trouble. When people take up beekeeping in order to "do their bit" for the bees, it's the equivalent of releasing 1000 chickens on the Minsmere scrape to help the avocet.

    The bees that really need our help are the solitaries - the Masons, Leafcutters, Plasterers etc, together with the Bumbles. Bumblebees like to nest down holes in the ground & you can build artificial nests from an upturned/half-buried flowerpot with a 1" pipe entrance (BBCT doubtless have plans on their website). The various solitary bees are the ones you'll find taking up residence in your bee hotel.

    I completely agree about the problems of cleaning the holes in the hotel - I've seen the same problem, some new holes being filled before all the old ones have released their residents (and remember, simply seeing a hole in the end doesn't mean all bees have left the tunnel. Males are the first to come out, a few weeks earlier than the females sometimes. It's nigh on impossible to know a tunnel is empty). The only suggestion I have is to wait until the season is over, then clean out any holes that have no new residents (ie aren't blocked in) by reaming out the tunnel with the right sized drill bit. If the hotel uses pieces of bamboo, you may be able to remove & replace them, cleaning them with something like Arklens (the sort of thing used to clean bird feeders etc).

    Personally I tend to not worry too much about anything parasitizing the bees - they are part of the natural world and have co-existed for millennia (and are frequently even more fascinating than the original bee!) so are not going to be a problem (it's the same concern people have with small birds and sparrowhawks - the raptors are not the reason for any declines in garden birds). By putting a big bee hotel in the garden you may be encouraging more bees to nest close together than they normally would (though large congregations in natural environments are completely normal for many species). If that is something that concerns you, the easiest thing is to put more, smaller hotels around the garden rather than one big one - that way you're less likely to get problems spreading.

    The number one thing to do if you want to help is to plant food - flowers that give nectar and pollen for as long a season as possible is what all the insects need and is definitely the best thing to do 

    Finally, thought it a good excuse to share a mason bee to remind us of sunnier days!