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June 2014

Innes' Diary

Atholl Palace Garden

July 2013

The 2nd week in July was a tremendously hot week peaking on the Friday at more than 30deg and on that Friday afternoon bees,temporarily, took over the Palace!

For longer than anyone can remember the hotel has hosted a hive of honey bees in an opening above the manager’s office. They go about their business of gathering pollen, pollinating a huge variety of flowers and generally maintaining their colony year after year without attracting much attention. But a prolonged spell of warm weather can trigger a large, healthy colony into an activity which initially, and to the uninformed, can seem terrifying....and so it was on that Friday afternoon. 10’s of thousands of bees emerged and began to swarm about the main hotel entrance. Experts immediately offered advice. The hotel should be closed, the police called, firebrigade, Rentokil......and just as things were getting a little hectic a proper expert arrived, a guest who kept many bees and was very familiar with what was going on. He immediately restored calm with his own behaviour amongst the buzzing thousands and quickly onlookers, too, became calm and began to enjoy the wonderful spectacle they were witnessing. What we were all watching was a very natural spectacle, a swarm, the bee’s way of propagating their colony. Professional bee keepers I apologise, but here is a quick guide to the honey bee swarm.

All honey bee colonies have one queen who lays all the eggs to keep a healthy colony going. When the colony is thriving and out-growing its home the bees cultivate some cells which contain new, young queens. Just before they emerge, if the weather is warm and settled, the old queen makes off with about half the colony’s workers to establish a new hive somewhere else. This is not a random thing, scouts will have been out and about in previous days looking for a suitable location to establish a new colony. So when the colony is getting ready to swarm away, as you can imagine, rather a lot of bees can be in the air at once and when this is very close to a place where many people are gathering then excitement/fear/panic can result....but as I said earlier a very calm and knowledgeable bee keeper was on hand and many of us had a really wonderful time listening, enjoying, learning, wondering at this spectacle of nature. Swarming bees are loaded with honey for their new home and they don’t have brood to defend so normally they are quite placid and can be watched without fear.

Without bees we would have no fruit or vegetables or nuts, all the flowers need to be pollinated and the little honey bee does a huge amount of this work. Bees are in desperate trouble due to disease and excessive use of pesticides. We really do need bees so whatever you do in your garden make it bee friendly. Encourage them and enjoy them and don’t ever be tempted to poison a wild hive without taking the fullest and best advice on the matter....that should go for wasps too. Far, far too many wasps bikes are poisoned without much thought. Wasps are good for the garden so next time a wasp is visiting you as you sit out in the garden don’t immediately feel the urge to find it’s bike and squirt some noxious brew into it....watch it, enjoy it and marvel at its work ethic and cleverness and if you have a quiet time over the weekend then cut a cube of pate and place it on your garden table....sit back and enjoy the wasp at work and I promise, you will never treat waspy the same again!! Innes