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Lifestyle, Country

Hive Minds 


Beekeeping is enjoying something of a renaissance, helping with pollination and the environment as well as supplying us with one of nature’s miracle foods. Here’s the buzz…

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” Whether or not Einstein did actually say this, it’s cause for concern: a massive one third of the UK’s bee population has disappeared over the past decade alone due to pesticides, fewer hedgerows, paved gardens and a lethal disease, the colony collapse disorder virus. There are also fewer people keeping bees. In 2015, there were just 270,000 hives countrywide, compared with nearly a million in 1900.

The positive news, though, is that there’s been a resurgence of interest in beekeeping in recent years, with local groups leading the way. Many people keep bees as a way of reconnecting with nature, or to have creatures to care for that are much lower-maintenance than the usual cats or dogs. If nothing else, there’s something intensely relaxing about watching bees quietly fly in and out of a hive. If you’re keen to join these hive minds, here’s how.

In terms of equipment, you’ll need a hive, smoker, bee suit and gloves. The set-up costs of beekeeping can be quite high: up to £600 for the hive and equipment, with the bees costing £200… and it’s not easy to recoup it all through honey! Bees turn nectar into honey for their winter stores; in order to produce 450g honey, 2 million flowers must be visited, with bees flying 88,500km. Although a colony will provide you with about 18kg of honey per year from the end of May to August, a worker bee makes less than a teaspoon of honey in its entire lifetime. It’s a precious resource. A good website to buy bee supplies is Maisemore Apiaries, which has been running since 1953 and offers starter kits from around £400.

Hive Minds Bee Keeping Outfit

Not surprisingly, the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) offers advice and local groups, plus its virtual Adopt a Beehive initiative. Locally, too, there are some great initiatives. The Vale and Downland Beekeepers’ Association, founded in 1963, aims “to promote beekeeping and increase public awareness of bees and their importance to the environment”. Affiliated to the British Beekeepers Association, they have a teaching apiary with 14 colonies, and a beginners’ apiary, both near Wantage. The Oxfordshire Beekeeping Association (OBKA) is another good port of call, with regular meetings for its members, offering expert help and support.

Even if you don’t want a hive, why not set aside an area for wildflower planting? As well as being low-maintenance when gardening, it will provide plenty of nectar for bees. A useful website, recommends planting bee-friendly bird’s foot trefoil, clovers, brambles, comfreys, ceanothuses, dandelions, green alkanet, kale, lupins, cosmos, poppies, pulmonarias, alliums, heather, campanulas, cornflowers, scabious, sedums, nasturtiums, verbenas and zinnias.

Garden flowers such as salvias, lavender, thyme, rosemary, cotoneasters, vegetables, soft fruits and herbs are also good choices for enticing bees, which are particularly attracted to yellow and purple flowers – plant in blocks to provide a one-stop destination for feeding.

Hive Minds Bee enticed by Garden Flower

One reason people shy away from bees is fear of swarms – in recent years, a swarm of 10,000 bees landed on shopping trolleys outside a supermarket in Bicester, and a similar one could be seen flying around Witney’s Woolgate Shopping Centre. But two local tech experts have come to the rescue. Norman Guiver and Louis Bennett make and sell honey as a hobby, which prompted them to create an app – Bee. Watch, available at – that allows beekeepers, farmers and even local councils to let each other know when they find a stray swarm. The hope is that the app will find a beekeeper willing to come and collect the colony and also let farmers and golf course owners inform local beekeepers when they are using pesticides, as these can kill off swarms. Norman and Louis are currently in talks with Oxford City Council about a contract and have already signed up six beekeeping associations around the country and four farmers in Oxfordshire.

Yet, as well as pollinating crops that are crucial for food production, bees create what, in its raw form, is surely one of the most unchanged, pure and delicious foods out there – honey. Check out local honey available: different flowers and nectar sources make for different colour and flavour which can range from light, floral and citrusy, to rich, dark and caramelly – and even in big cities like London, there is such a diversity of flora that the honey is remarkably light and floral. And, of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a hive, remember that one of the many advantages – beyond protecting the bee population – will be the joy of spooning your own honey over your breakfast yogurt or toast.

Hive Minds Honey Bees Swarm

Bee facts

• A honey bee colony consists of three castes: the queen, who is mother to all the other bees; workers (female honey bees) and drones (male bees).

• In addition to honey, bees produce beeswax, royal jelly, pollen and propolis.

• There are 250 types of bee in the UK.

• A colony of honey bees can number up to 40,000.

• The queen bee lives for four years, laying about 1,000 eggs a day in the summer.

• Bees ‘dance’ in the hive – and the direction they dance in communicates to the other bees which direction to fly in. Dancing in circles means there are nectar sources near to the hive.

• Honey is made not for us to slather onto hot toast, but to get bees through the winter.

• If you get stung, you should use your nail to get the sting out as quickly as possible.

Hive Minds Queen Bee on Honeycomb


  1. Let your lawn grow: wild flowers rich in pollen such as dandelions, clovers, daisies and plantains will thrive.
  2. Choose a range of flower shapes to suit different bee species, as their foraging methods and feeding techniques can vary.
  3. Provide water for bees to take back to the hive.
  4. Ensure all-year-round planting so bees have a constant source of nectar.
  5. Avoid the use of pesticides and chemical sprays as these are lethal to bees.
  6. Provide a bee house for solitary bees: make one yourself from a block of wood with holes drilled in it, or bamboo, or buy one.
  7. Focus on cottage garden flowers, eg. lupins, hollyhocks, lavender, delphiniums, foxgloves, wallflowers, single roses and honeysuckle.
  8. Encourage your local council to plant pretty drifts of wild flowers in public places: they are low-maintenance and very bee-friendly.
  9. Buy local honey where possible. Supermarket honey is often blended to a bland standard and, in some cases from outside Europe, might not even be honey at all, but simply sugar and colouring.
  10. Grow vegetables and soft fruit – they have nectar-rich flowers that bees love.


New build houses
Thu 18 Jul 2024

Congratulations! Buying a new home is such an exciting moment. Whether it is your very first home or you are upgrading your current property for something a bit nicer, there is no feeling like it. New build homes are such a great investment. Not only are they brand new for your family but you can feel confident that they have been designed with the future in mind. Many properties come with eco-friendly features which are great for safeguarding your family. Financing a new home can be a bit of a minefield. Let’s take a look at how you could buy your new home as well as some things to look out for along the way. Mortgage Mortgages are the most common financing option when buying a home. Buyers of new builds can benefit from mortgages designed for the intricacies of the new build process. Lenders may be a lot more critical when looking at your application as there is less security for them with a new build. As construction timelines can be subject to delays and issues, be sure to keep in touch with your lender and see if you can extend your mortgage in principal agreement. You may be able to get some help with buying a new build home. If you are a first-time buyer, look into whether you are eligible for a discount under the First Homes Scheme. Incentives from builders It is in the best interest of building developers to sell their new homes, so some may offer you incentives. You may be offered cash towards your deposit which will be transferred to your solicitor on completion. If you do take advantage of this, remember to inform your mortgage lender. For people who have already purchased a home, developers may be able to help you sell your old house. A developer-assisted sale is one where they will aid you with independent valuations, appropriate deals or the actual sale. This is often free, and they may pay for your estate agency fees. Hidden costs Buying a house can come with hidden costs such as stamp duty and moving costs. Delays in the construction of your new build can often be costly too. When thinking about your moving budget, it is wise to incorporate a buffer zone for additional expenses. Advice The home-buying process is not a straightforward one, so seeking help from professionals is prudent. A lot of the process includes legal intricacies which will be beyond your capabilities. Mortgage brokers, for example, will be invaluable when it comes to getting you a mortgage in principle that works for your situation. Not only will you be able to get the best deal and save money, but a broker will save you so much time. Instructing a firm of solicitors will also be worth the expense. They can do land searches, deed transfers and keep everything above board for you going forward.

Endellion Lycett Green - you drifted by
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This summer the Laura Lopes Gallery presents works by botanical artist Endellion Lycett Green in the Tithe Barn at Thyme. Through her art, Lycett Green pays testament to the inspiration she finds in the natural world.

Lydia Millen
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For anyone who hasn’t come across Lydia Millen, she is an influencer-turned-writer who has embraced a life of bucolic bliss. Her debut book, Evergreen: Discover the Joy in Every Season, came out last autumn and encourage readers to be inspired and soothed by connecting with the natural world.

Urban winner   Danny Kidby Hunter
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Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) has opened its annual nature photography competition for 2024 with new categories and prizes.