A typical Saturday for me involves a lie-in (with compulsory cat cuddles), at least four cups of tea, a DVD box set, and plenty of tinkering on this here blog. Last Saturday, however, involved bees.
Nope, I wasn’t trying to remove a swarm from my roof insulation. And I wasn’t wearing my bee shoes. Last Saturday, I went along to a beekeeping workshop on the roof terrace of St Ermin’s Hotel in St James’s Park.
Learning about how bees work
I had no idea that bees carried pollen in pouches beside their knees. And that they do a waggle dance to tell the other bees in the colony how far they should fly to find food. Fascinating! Camilla Goddard, Director of Capital Bee, told us all about how bees work and what we should expect from the hives on the terrace.
Then we did a bit of honey tasting – oh yes! We tried honey from all parts of the world – the UK, France, Abu Dhabi. And we tasted St Ermin’s own honey, from the bees we were about to see. It was so delicious, I’m going to have to go back and buy some!
Camilla told us the pros and cons of keeping bees (hint: there’s only really one con – getting stung), and what sort of plants and flowers you should grow in your garden to feed them and attract buzzy visitors.
Beekeeping on the terrace
The bee and bug hotel on St Ermin’s terrace is sooo cute – lookit!
Camilla designed it herself and it’s home to all sorts of bees and insects on their travels. One of the boxes was full of French bees, who’ve settled here recently. I think they came over for a holiday and decided they liked it too much to go home – such is Camilla’s hospitality up on the terrace!
Once we were suited up in our beekeeping suits, we all tottered out on the terrace to meet the bees. Camilla told us all about how the hive boxes work and starting smoking them out to have a look inside. We had a quick taste of some fresh ‘hyper local’ honey from the hive, and watched a brand new bee scrunch its way out of a cell.
There are 3 hives on the roof of St Ermin’s, holding approximately 300,000 bees! That’s a whole lot of stingers… The bees were completely calm though, so there was no worry about being stung.
Camilla taught us all about setting up a hive, feeding the bees with sugar water, spacing the racks, where to keep the queen and how to exclude her (to keep her safe at the bottom of the hive), and where to place your hive for minimal disruption.
The day was loads of fun and we learnt so much about keeping bees in our own garden. It’s so easy to set up your own hive and give bees a nice home. We all know bees have had a tough time in England, so anything you can do to help them thrive will make a difference. Even if it’s planting a few bee-friendly flowers and herbs in your garden.
Check out Camilla Goddard’s Capital Bee for more information on beekeeping in London.
A little bit about St Ermin’s
St Ermin’s has a fascinating history, even before the bees arrived! During the 1930s, the hotel and the building next to it were used by MI6. The likes of Ian Fleming, Kim Philby and Guy Burgess were all known to have worked from the building and throughout WWII, it operated as an annex by MI6 surrounded by other secret organisations. Interesting, huh?
* I was a guest of St. Ermin’s for their beekeeping workshop, and I loved it! Have a go if you see any more beekeeping experiences in the city.