Our work with bees at Trengwainton

Restored Victorian bee house in the orchard at Trengwainton Garden, Cornwall

It’s a sobering thought that ‘one in three mouthfuls of food we eat is dependent on pollination.’ (Source: British Beekeepers Association). The disappearance of billions of bees worldwide is therefore a cause for concern, so we’re playing our part by encouraging colonies within the garden.

What’s the problem?

Colonies of bees have been decimated by the mite Varroa destructor. This mite sucks the blood of adult bees and infects young bees still in their pupal stage.

The infestation weakens and shortens the bee’s life and if left untreated can wipe out whole colonies.

How are we helping?

To begin with, we restored to full working order the Victorian bee house that’s sited in the Orchard. These brick built buildings are common in northern European countries but unusual in Britain.

It has a wooden façade to the south, with landing stages and entrances for the bees. Each is marked with a different coloured shape so the bees can distinguish which is their hive; entry to the wrong hive could mean being attacked and killed by other bees.

How are our colonies doing?

We now house four known colonies of bees at Trengwainton; two in the Victorian bee house and two in separate hives. This is besides those that make their homes in the hedges and underground.  

We’ve received expert advice and support from an independent member of the British Beekeepers Association who’s taught two of our garden team the basics of bee keeping and how to look out for parasites like the Varroa mite.

Encouraging bees

In the Walled Kitchen Garden we deliberately plant flowers and vegetables side by side in order to encourage the bees. Favourites for them include Phacelia - listed as one of the top 20 honey-producing flowers for honeybees - and the poached egg plant, Limnanthes douglasii.

During the winter months we also ensure the colonies have sufficient food by feeding them with a sugar solution.

Making your own garden bee-friendly

If you’d like some help in making your own garden a haven for bees, the Royal Horticultural Society have compiled three downloadable plant lists which you can access here.

Did you know?

  • Bees make different flavoured honey from different flower varieties.
  • Chemicals from glands in the bee’s head mix with nectar to form honey
  • Around 4,000 tonnes of honey is produced in the UK each year
  • There are around 60,000 bees in the average hive
  • There are around 30,000 been in the average swarm