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Luvachicken

Can you just keep bees as pets instead of for honey ?

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I’ve got several bee hotels around the garden, solitary bees lay their eggs/ larva ( whatever) in them.  Then of course there’s bumblebees!  They don’t sting unless really threatened, in fact they are quite friendly!  Have a look at the Bumblebee preservation site. They’ve got lots of ideas.   

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Hi LuvaChicken, so not at all! You don’t have to collect the honey because the bees will store it and then the colony will feed from it in the winter months, and depending on the size of the beehive you want, then usually the honey is all gone after February and they start making more. If there is still some left after then, they will just keep it in storage, but there usually isn’t. So you can just leave it in the hive🤣

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Thank you everybody 😊

I will have a look into bees then.

I did buy a little concrete bee house for the bees but no one moved in. I think it was for the solitary bee or maybe even the Red Mason bee.

I also grew orange Cosmos last year and the bees absolutely adored them.

I've bought 2 packets of the seed for this year so hopefully more bees will come.

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I wouldn't advise keeping bees if you aren't going to take the honey as its quite a faff keeping them in any case, and if you don't take the honey there is a very good chance they will swarm (even more than normal) as they will run out of space quickly.  You should give at least about a metre in front of a hive so they can come in and out easily, and if you site the hive entrance facing a wall/fence then the bees are encouraged to fly up (and out of your way).  To keep bees successfully you really need to learn how to do it, its not totally straightforward, a good idea is to go on a course as there is a lot to know.  You might like to consider getting in touch with your local British Beekeeping Assocation (BBKA) if you wanted to do this and/or ask them if a local beekeeper might be interested in siting a hive in your garden (bit of a longshot, but it might just work) which would give you all the pleasure of bees in the garden and none of the responsibility.  In the old days, beekeepers would happily give a new keeper a swarm as the foundation of a colony, but now I think it is more usual to buy a nucleus and build up your own colony that way.  Just having an empty hive is unlikely to attract a colony particularly, although you never know!

If it was me, and I didn't want to go to the expense of going on a course and buying all the equipment and possibly finding out I didn't like it, then I would concentrate on planting a variety of plants to attract bees, and I would carry on making/buying homes for solitary bees.  I'd also spend some time observing bumbles and other solitaries, as they are reasonably distinctive, to try to understand a bit more about what they do/where they like to be.  I find them fascinating, and if I was better with a camera, then I'm sure there would be a lot of good photo ops! 

If you want to attract honey bees, then remember they like flattish 'daisy' type flowers best, like cosmos, and make sure they are a single, or simple variety, not something too double or frilly.  The other thing is to plant for a wide season, early and late are particularly important (ivy is a very good winter plant for bees when it forms flowers).  The plant in my garden I remember being covered in bees was an ornamental cherry, they also like apple and pear and buddleia.  They are also very keen on wild flowers (some might say weeds) such as wild rocket or vipers bugloss (aka echiums.  This family attracts all sorts of pollinators, including moths and a wide range of bees).  Other ornamentals which spring to mind include gaura, lavender as already mentioned, and agastache.  However, no doubt there are thousands more which Google can find!

 

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@Luvachicken so as Daphne already kind of mentioned, if you leave a hive near some flowers that bees might find attractive then you would most likely get some wild bees, and possibly get lucky and get bumblebees, but it isn’t guaranteed, my lavender bush is prone to having bumblebees every year so i would recommend putting it near there and cosmos. However, if you don’t get any wild bee colonies moving in then you would have to buy some bees, which as Daphne said is more hard work because they have probably only known for there honey to be collected by the previous keeper you purchased them from and so are likely to leave within a year or so. I also recommend doing a course if you are desperate for some bees as the chances of you getting a colony that are wild are quite slim. The reason why they would only be available in may are because that is the time they are most active and easy to breed. It might be a little hard work to buy some because you will have to regularly check for disease and maintain them the way the previous keeper would have. If you get some wild bees then you can just leave them to it and they might move on eventually and you would have to clear the hive and wait for a new colony to come. Patience is key, but you wouldn’t get any bees until April- may time is suspect, if you have decided to go for waiting for a wild colony. Good luck!

Also I would place a hive near a water source or if your neighbour has a pond or maybe you have a drinker for birds in your garden, because water is essential. It doesn’t really matter where abouts you put it, I would recommend just keeping it near flowers and bushes and if you have children or people allergic to bees then away from the house is best. 

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Thank you all for such great information on the bees.

Last summer I did actually have 2 bee nests under my little waterfall that I have to my little pond. 

There were big fat bumble bees in one nest and smaller bumble bees in the other.

One nest was slightly above the other and they didn't seem to mind each other.

It was lovely watching them hover around trying to find their doorway.

@Daphne I think you are right about not getting bees and planting more bee friendly plants instead.

I have bigger borders now so I can fit more plants in.

I was intending to buy a winter flowering cherry and a Williams pear tree so I hope they like those.

I was also thinking of some Bowles Mauve wallflowers - I know butterflies like them -  do bees ? Also my MIL has one that is huge - too huge for my garden - do they have to get so big ?

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I would have thought they'd be a good flower as they are quite simple and flat, and nice and early.  I know Bowles mauve is a perennial, and I think if you keep it trimmed back it won't get too big.  You could also try annual wallflowers, they are the same idea, but don't get big and obviously you enjoy them and then bin them, so you could put them in a pot if you wanted.  Normally you'd buy them bare rooted in autumn, but I'm sure garden centres will sell plants in flower in Spring (assuming they are open of course!)

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22 minutes ago, mullethunter said:

Oh I’m glad you’re getting a winter cherry - mine looked beautiful at the beginning of December

Me too 😊

My Mum has one, which I've always liked, so when we lost our Silver Birch in our front garden we bought a winter cherry to replace it.

It is really very sweet and I thought it would be nice to have another one, but for the back garden instead.

Unfortunately storm Bella blew most of my Mum's flowers off, so she was a bit cross about that..

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On 1/3/2021 at 7:40 PM, Cat tails said:

I ordered my seeds too. Was inspired by your flowers and got some Cosmos and also Nemophila Five spots. And a pack of different kinds of sunflowers. Can’t wait till I can start planting!

Oh dear, I may have succumbed to ordering more seeds than I meant to.

I had already bought some seeds when we were still allowed out but because you ordered some, I ordered some more from a certain Mr Fothergill :lol:

I bought the bees some more orange Cosmos, some Cornflower, some pink and white Cosmos, a really pretty purple Cosmos and some sunflowers that can grow in pots.

I hope the bees will be very happy, once I've grown them all, plus, my little pear tree has arrived too 😊

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5 hours ago, Cat tails said:

Is Cosmos easy to grow from seed? Never had it before?

Well, the orange ones were certainly very easy to grow from seed, although I did find one variety was slightly better than the other.

I don't know about the other Cosmos I have bought as I've only ever bought a few plants from garden centres before.

I thought I'd give them a try as garden centres charge at least £2.99 for 6 plants and I'm not sure garden centres will still be open in the weeks to come.

15214c.jpgThese are called Pollidor

25445c.jpgThese are called Klondyke

These are the orange ones I had last year that the bees liked so much. 

I did look at Sarah Raven but I couldn't find any cosmos that I liked the look of, BUT, there was an extremely nice wooden bee house :lol:

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That's a lovely selection you have there, Luvachicken, even if the bees don't like it you will (but they will as well!).  One of the good things about that selection is that you should have a long season of flower.  In my garden in UK and here in Portugal, my cosmos flowered late - Aug/Sept.  They are dead easy to grow CT, you can either sow them in seed trays/modules and plant out seedlings in Apr/May when chances of frost are gone.  Or you can self sow by flinging them wherever.  The seeds are a decent size, so not too fiddly to handle.  I generally do a bit of both, as I broadcast the seed from dead plants in the autumn, and sow some packet seed in trays in the Spring.  Although they are so delicate to look at, all featherty and ferny, I have found that they grow best in a fertile bed, like a veg patch, so I tend to give mine a bit of compost/goodness in the ground and the occasional feed when in flower, which is a bit namby-pamby but I think it helps.  Each year I get a couple of rogue plants, which grow a thick stem and have lots and lots of heads.  

 

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57 minutes ago, Daphne said:

That's a lovely selection you have there, Luvachicken, even if the bees don't like it you will (but they will as well!).

Thank you Daphne, I can't wait for the seeds to arrive and get them started.

It was so nice to see so many different bees last year.

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8 hours ago, Daphne said:

I see there is going to be an item on different species of bee on tonight's Winterwatch on BBC2 at 8pm.

Yes that’s lovely - and some great fish stuff - but Liverpool are playing so I’ll have to watch it later on the iPlayer 🙄 

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