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The bees are back in town!

by Sarah Nicholl-Carne, volunteer beekeeper

After the tragic and unexplained death of the Palace bees in December, bees are finally back in the walled garden! On Thursday, a new colony arrived in a very smart green travelling box, brought by courier from Cheltenham.  It contained a Buckfast queen bee surrounded by a nucleus of worker bees.

Garden apprentice Annette holds the bees, newly arrived from Cheltenham in this travelling box

For the first twenty four hours they were positioned in the apiary, still in their box, which had a tiny front door so they could explore their new surroundings and acclimatise. By staying overnight, the bees were able to get used to their new home.

The little door is propped open to allow for cautious exploration

On Friday 30 April the beekeepers transferred them to their permanent home in one of the regular Fulham Palace hives. This involved first smoking the bees to keep them calm on their frames. Then the frames are lifted one by one and placed, in the same order, into the new permanent hive.

Smoking the bees to keep them calm
The beekeepers were very happy to acquire a calm and gentle colony. In this photo you can see that all the bees are on the frame rather than flying around - a good sign!

It will take them a few weeks to build up to full strength, and the beekeepers will keep a close eye on them, feeding them if necessary on a syrup made of ordinary granulated sugar and tap water. Later in May, they will be joined by a second colony.

It is much too early to tell whether they will produce much exquisite Fulham Palace honey this year, but if they do, it will be announced in September.

Come and say “Hello” to them if you’re passing. You can visit the new bees (cautiously) in their apiary in the orchard of the walled garden where they have plenty of delicious forage – they will be having a wonderful time in the apple blossom.