The British Beekeeper’s Association is promoting a lovely approach to beekeeping this year that is all about the forage. They say that even though we all want to be beekeepers, we can certainly all be ‘keepers of bees’ by planting the right plants as sweet, yummy forage habitats to welcome bees into our lives.
As a newbie beekeeper who is unsure about keeping bees of her own in London due to the lack of forage, I‘m a huge advocate of the keeper of bees approach. Its widely accepted that bee populations have dropped in the UK because they have a suffered a huge loss in habitat over recent decades so more forage habitat is much needed.
Ideal bee feeding habitats are flower-rich grasslands and clover fields but unfortunately these have been disappearing in the UK due to changes in agricultural practices and intensified land use. The majority of farmers use industrial practices like monoculture where vast areas of one crop are grown year after year instead of using traditional methods of crop rotation where land is purposefully left covered in wildflowers like clover. Crop rotation was great because clover was used to feed the horses working the land but also was excellent forage for pollinators such as bees.
However, awareness is now growing for the need to re-establish bee habitats and its lovely to see wildflower meadows springing up in public parks like this one in London Fields I photographed in the summer last year …
Not only do they look great but they also smell amazing – by September you could really smell the nectar given off by the flowers as you walked past so it must have been like heaven for a bee in there. Over the summer we spotted lots of honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies visiting this patch and even in chilly November there were a few brave honeybees out for some last sips of nectar.
So to join the effort, today I made my task as a keeper of bees to make use of the free packets of wildflower seeds I’ve accumulated over the last year and get sowing a little wildflower patch. Now that the soil is warming in this beautiful spring weather, it is the ideal time for wildflower sowing. The seed mix I’ve used contains a blend of cornflowers, wild red clover and field poppies. Last year I haphazardly sowed the same mix too close together and it all got a bit messy. This year, with thanks to LBKA and Groundwork for a crash course in wildflower meadow planting last weekend, I’m hoping for a slightly neater result.
The key is to prepare topsoil nicely with a rake, sprinkle the seeds evenly across it (the amount I have here is enough for about 4 Square Metres) and tread them in well so they don’t blow away. Remember to give them a little drink of water after sowing too. So hopefully in a few months this patch I’ve sown will be alive with wildflowers.
Thanks to my brother for the sign … I’m really glad the bees will know they’re welcome to enter the patch ; )
So if you fancy becoming a keeper of bees, get some wildflower seed and get sowing. Maybe if you have a big lawn in need of some colour, give a patch up to some wildflowers? And when your source your seed, be sure to check that they are pesticide free.