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Weston garden centre on the importance of bees and how to make them a hotel

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In the weekly Out in the Garden column, Mark Cox, of Baytree Garden Centre, looks at making a bee hotel...

As part of Shawshank’s’ reform policy I was invited to a local school on Wednesday to give the children a talk centred around caring for our bee population and key to this would be to show them just how important these little creatures are.

In order to engage the children I asked Billy, D Wing’s resident graffiti artist, to design and construct a bee costume for T-Dog to wear at the upcoming presentation.

Bee hotel (57937303)
Bee hotel (57937303)

Mrs McKay provided an old pair of tights and a metal coathanger which Billy turned into wings. A large black bin liner adorned with yellow strips cut from medical waste bags made the perfect stripped belly for T-Dog.

The pièce de résistance was the black fortune teller’s hat provided by X-man’s Auntie Joyce which really finished the costume off.

I began by telling them there are over 250 different species of bee in the UK but probably the one we all think about is the Bumblebee of which there are around 24 different species.

At this point I’d gone full David Attenborough whilst T-Dog, who’d now fully embraced his role, was flapping his arms and making buzzing sounds. This was causing much hilarity with the young audience.

Bees provide us with so much more than just honey. Without them many of the foods we eat would simply disappear. Bees are responsible for pollinating so many of the world’s flowering plants. Without bees we simply wouldn’t be able to exist.

As a consequence of more and more of their natural habitats being destroyed, the bee population in the UK is shrinking. Thankfully there are a number of simple things that we can do to help our native bees.

At this point I thought we might be arrested as, fuelled by the children’s laughter, T-Dog was now chasing the head teacher Mrs Adams around the hall in an attempt, I believe, to sting her. I’m not sure if she was enjoying it but the children certainly were.

Over the ensuing ruckus I explained to the children that one of the easiest things we could do to help our bees is to plant lots of bee-friendly flowers such as Foxgloves, Lavatera and Buddleja.

Mrs Adams, who was now only a few seconds away from a full scale cardiac arrest, said that they were hoping to create a nature area in the coming weeks.

“That’s great,” I said “as that means you can all help to make a Bee Hotel within your wildlife area.”

Not all bees live in hives.Many live on their own and these bees live and build their nests in hollow stems. Into these hollow stems the bees lay their eggs.

Bamboo canes cut into small 10cm lengths will provide the perfect habitat for them when stacked on top of each other. Your stack of canes when you look down on them will resemble a honeycomb. You can also add reeds and any other hollow stems to your bundle of canes. The bees will move in and then nest inside the hollow stems.

Having now been caught, Mrs Adams finished straightening her clothing, regained her composure and thanked us both for attending. To my delight she asked Mr McKay if I could be allowed to come back again and help the children plant their nature area and to construct the school’s bee hotel.

To my great surprise she insisted to Mr McKay that T-Dog reprise his role of giant bee – obviously he was a hit. So if you know of anyone who needs a 6ft bee you know where to ask.

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