Tag Archives: bees

The Bumblebee Nest

bumblebee nesting in straw on compost heap

I was so pleased to see that they’d built a new nest, I stood holding my breath for ages watching this little one

In early February, my strawberry runners arrived weeks earlier than the website I bought them from had suggested they would. I popped them in toilet roll inners that I’d been saving for my sweet peas, and resolved to pot them up on the weekend. But I’d run out of compost from my open heap.

Ah well I thought, I needed to turn the dalek bin that I’d been filling up since July onto the open compost heap and while the three year old was playing in the garden and the baby was napping in her pushchair I proceeded to lift the black bin off the heap and with my garden gloved hands I moved chunks of semi-composted material to the open heap next door with my eyes on the prize of the good stuff at the bottom. I thought about getting the fork from the garage but didn’t want to risk waking the baby by opening the door.

There’s something fascinating about going through semi-composted materials. Especially when you get hints of what wildlife ha been visiting your compost heap. I was just thinking that I really need to set up a wormery for our egg shells because I could see a mouse had been gnawing at some of the empty egg boxes that I’d added to the heap when I thought I heard a buzzing sound. Then nothing. I checked where the three year old was playing and carried on moving the heap then “zzzzzzzzzzzzmmmmm” that buzzing sound, louder and more urgent than before. This time with irritated looking bumblebees. I’d inadvertently lifted a nest from my dalek bin onto the open heap. Fortunately for me, it was cold enough for them to be pretty dormant and not sting. Fortunately for them, I hadn’t tackled the heap from the base with a fork as planned.

Cue me coming inside and spending all my free time that day reading the bumblebee conservation trust website to learn all I could about what to do if you disturb a bumblebee nest. I duly snuck out after dusk to make sure that the nest was properly sheltered and that the bees have the best chance of survival.

I checked on them a week later, and they’ve fixed up their nest and are bumbling around questing for pollen. It means my open compost heap is out of action until the Autumn when the nests will die down naturally and the queens will move on, but I can use the daleks and have plans to make a wormery in the meantime. Either way, the inconvenience is worth it to have a thriving population of bumblebees.

 

Homemade Reusable Beeswax Food Wraps

Social media can be so depressing sometimes but I’ve been really heartened to see a whole community of people who are committed to doing what they can to help tackle climate change in any small way online recently. Whether they are taking on zero waste challenges, joining in with Veganuary or campaigning pointless plastic, it’s so good to see that others are tired of feeling powerless and are taking action to help tackle climate change.

I had a bit of a list-making frenzy at the end of last year to see whether there were any disposable products that we could cut out of our lives and I realised that I could bring my kitchen closer to being zero waste by cutting out the greaseproof paper we were using to wrap leftovers and the foil that we were using to cover containers of food in the fridge.

I’ve wanted to try reusable food wrap for a long time but I couldn’t justify the price, so I was delighted when I saw a video tutorial on Pinterest for making your own at home. It had the added benefit that I could use up some of my scrap fabric stash that I have leftover from making various projects and which was sitting loved but unused in our attic.

I found a simple but brilliant tutorial on the excellent Trashbackwards, ordered some food grade beeswax and had a relaxing half an hour (seriously, these are so quick to make) creating my own beeswax food wraps.

I’ve been using them for three weeks now and I’m completely delighted with the results. They are perfect for covering bowls and mugs of leftovers in the fridge (avoiding both food waste and wasted foil that would need to be recycled), and are ideal for wrapping snacks and sandwiches for the children when I take them out for the day (reducing the likelihood of us buying over packaged food on the go).

I honestly love them, they make me happy every time I use them. My partner was more sceptical about them (because they didn’t come in a box from a shop… this is my struggle) but he’s been converted by the referential tones with which our three year old talks about “the beeeeaaautiful bees wraps”.

Breaking Bud

I was feeling a bit drained today, and even though the sunshine was glorious, when the under gardener first went down for her nap, all I had the energy to do was make a cup of tea and lie on the sofa catching up on Friday’s episode of Gardener’s World.

When it had finished, I dragged myself out into the sunshine with my camera (not my mobile phone for once!) to record some of the signs of spring that I could see. Tulips coming into flower, buds ready to break on the clematis montana and the flowers of my rosemary heavy with bees. Inevitably, my mood lifted.

So this is me, also being grateful for sunlight on the garden.

Nectar of the Gods

Anyone looking into creating a wildlife garden will know how important nectar rich plants are when looking to attract bees and butterflies to the garden. In the summer, I have a pretty reasonable range of nectar rich flowers for insects but at the end of January my garden was looking bleak. I was still waiting for my snowdrops and crocuses to come up and wanted to make sure that I had a good source of food for any reckless insects who decided to brave the grey days of February.

They weren’t the worst bit of my garden by any stretch of the imagination, but these planters caught my eye because they were so close to the house. I had used them for growing blueberries, but some kind of pest or disease spread through my plants like a wild-fire in the summer… it started on the right hand leaves and within two weeks the left hand leaves were falling off and all three plants were dead. They were the perfect thing to reuse to brighten up the winter with a nectar rich container garden.

We went to the local garden centre and splashed out £15 on some primroses and bulbs that were growing in pots- daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths and the like. Then I spent a happy, drizzly afternoon in the garden with my under gardener (toddlers love to dig) emptying half of the ericaceous compost from the pot and filling them up with top soil in which we planted the bulbs.

Result? I have some early opening flowers which are benefitting from being sheltered by the house and opening way earlier than the same flowers in more exposed positions, the insects have something of a winter soup kitchen and the under gardener is oh so proud of her first foray into gardening.

For more on bee friendly gardening see some great tips from Friends of the Earth’s Bee Friendly Garden campaign.