May is a peak month for bee swarming – and in the warm days earlier this month they seemed to be swarming more than usual.
Swarming – where a swirling cloud of bees and a queen leave the hive to find a new home elsewhere – is a natural event for bee colonies, but is something beekeepers work to avoid. The answer is to manage the colony and its environment so that it is attractive for the bees to stay. Ultimately, bees are their own bosses in all things and will make the choice themselves.
In our case, other beekeepers have kept hives at Swangleys and its related farm land for decades, but we are now in our third year of keeping our own bees as well. We still have a lot to learn. Our own hives are not intended to produce a crop of honey on anything approaching a commercial scale, but instead these bee colonies have an active part to play in improving the vitality of our neighbouring wildflower meadow which forms an important element of our wider ecological initiatives. In addition, the simple act of keeping bees helps maintain their numbers and their essential role in the wider countryside and domestic gardens. Despite the surprising amount of time involved in working to maintain the colonies – and the occasional sting or two – this is something we’re personally keen to support.