The Plight of the Honey Bee

 On 9th May Transition Ashtead had a very buzzy evening at the Ashtead Village Club. Andrew Barnett and Liz Knee from the Epsom Bee Keeping Association explained all about the fascinating life of honey bees and the hive. We also learnt about honey bee research that is being done at the moment funded by DEFRA and other organisations, and how important they are to the economy as well as to the environment.

Andrew bought along a ‘frame’ from one of his hives it was fascinating to see the amazing wax comb the bees make, it was full of honey and smelt delicious, but we had to resist tasting and making a sticky mess!  He also bought his most useful new bit of safety kit – a small metal dustbin with a lid to keep his ‘smoker’ in when he has it in the car, in fact it was still smouldering so his point was well made!  The reason for useing a smoker is that the bees think the hive is on fire and fill themselves with honey making them rather heavy and sleepy rather than stinging the bee keeper.

Andrew keeps a hive in my front garden here in Ashtead. Because April has been so warm and dry, he has already taken over 60 lbs of honey, a month earlier than usual. He has never had such a productive hive in all his many years of bee keeping.  A common question is ‘How many bees are in the hive?’.  The answer is up to 60,000 in the height of summer, and the follow up question is  ‘What’s it like having that many in the garden?’. In fact we get very few because, unlike solitary bees which flit from flower to flower, honey bees feed on massed planting. They travel up to three miles to find their food. Trees are particularly important – apple blossom, horse chestnut, lime trees, fields of rape flowers, lavender hedges, ivy and so on throughout the year.

Andrew, who keeps bees in a variety of sites, says that his Ashtead hives always do better than sites in the countryside, possibly because there are plenty of trees and a good variety of massed plants.  Honey bees have declined by about 50% in the last twenty years. Sites for “hive hosting” are always needed by bee keepers – all you do is provide a space in your garden and in return get a supply of yummy very local honey!

If you would like to find out more information about having a hive in your garden, please contact the Epsom Beekeepers Association

If you would like to visit our garden, see the  the hive in action and find out more about ‘hosting a hive’ from the garden owners point of view please contact me at

Bee on clover

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