June: Bu-zz-y Bees
Pip, Attingham Beekeeper
Meet Pip, Beekeeper at Attingham. Pip has been looking after the bees at Attingham for the last three years, find out more about her work and about the bee colonies thriving on the estate.
How did you get into beekeeping?
My father kept bees. During the Second World War you used to get a sugar allowance
if you kept bees. I was brought up in the middle of Birmingham - and just about everyone
in the street kept bees to receive a sugar allowance. I’ve heard beekeeping described as like
sitting by a river watching the water go by, it has a restful, contemplative and meditative quality. I have three of my own hives at the moment, and I wouldn’t be without my bees!
Tell us a bit about yourself, and beekeeping at Attingham?
I started as a volunteer at Attingham about three years ago, having been a beekeeper myself
for around 10 years at the time. I then became the leading beekeeper and we’re now a team of four people caring for the 13 bee colonies we have here. Including three colonies in the deer park, four in the orchard, two in observation hives under the eaves of the sheds between the walled garden and orchard.
We have a traditional observation hive, and a ‘Top Bar’ hive – this is a non-traditional method of keeping bees, instead of there being frames in which the bees grow their wax, there’s just a bar at the top of the hive and they hang their wax from it - and that’s how they behave in the wild. We’ve only just introduced the Top Bar hive so we’re monitoring it and seeing how that goes.
How are you helping the bees to thrive at Attingham?
We provide them with protection, and an environment in which they can thrive we keep an eye on them to make sure they are healthy and thriving – the organically grown Walled Garden is the perfect environment for the bees! And, it’s been a good year for the bees so far! We’ve been able to produce jars of honey, as well as plenty of blocks of beeswax. Historically honey was an important source of sweetness for cooking, baking, eating, and was a very valuable
How can we all help bees to thrive?
If you have your own garden, planting wildflowers for the bees is ideal. Ideally, the smaller traditional, native colourful flowers - and if you can, have varieties that grow throughout the seasons – spring, summer and autumn flowers. ‘Bee season’ starts in January with the snowdrops and crocuses, then with hazels and lavenders as the seasons progress, and last crop of the season is ivy. If you’d like to know more about bees and beekeeping - this year we’ve started holding fortnightly ‘Meet the beekeeper’ sessions. These are where visitors can book a place to join us as we do our checks on the hives, they can see what’s happening in the hives, and find out how we look after the bees. For more information click here.
The bee colony ensures it’s survival by forming new colonies – and this is when you will see a swarm. The queen bee leaves the colony with around half of the drones and worker bees - and a new queen will have taken her place in the original hive. Swarming is the honey bees way of naturally reproducing by forming new colonies.