Thursday, 26 December 2013

Santa's Little Gift

May be you remember a post here on wall bee boles which hold bee skeps? Following that post and knowing that there is a crisis amongst the bee population my thoughts turned to having a bee skep of my own. Online, a bee skep maker who lived nearby was located. This was fortunate as making skeps is an ancient craft practiced by only a few. I contacted him, decided on the size, and placed an order. I realised that I had the perfect location for one within our own garden. When we had our walls built I had asked the drystone expert to incorporate some alcoves with a view to putting pots of flowers or pieces of sculpture in them. 
So far the bee skep has not been completed - hopefully it will be here for the spring.
Bee skeps shown in the mid 15th century Tacuinum sanitatis - a medieval handbook on health and wellbeing based on the 11th century Arab medical treatise by Ibn Butlan of Baghdad. This book contains a remarkable series of 130 coloured drawings. They are thought to have been done in Padua, Italy, by a group of artists in the circle of the eminent early renaissance painter, Andrea Mantegna. 
I was keen to give the solitary bees a home for 2014 and luckily Santa turned up trumps with a little wooden bee chalet. This will be hung in the alcove and transferred to one of our house walls once the bee skep has arrived.  I am sure that most of you know that a solitary bee has a completely different lifestyle to that of the honey bee. Keeping honey bees is a dedicated art as I have learnt at blue borage.
Solitary bees are just that, non swarming, they need a little place to call their own. The little chalet has separate individual compartments for them where they can build their bee cells and lay their eggs.
Welcome little bees, there are 24 self contained, brand new apartments, free, and waiting for you here. First come, first served.

52 comments:

  1. What delightful post, Rosemary! I adore bees and am devastated to hear that they are under such threat. I have a beekeeper friend in Yorkshire and she's always bringing it to our attention. I have never heard of a bee skep...and I shall be investigating more. I don't actually feel able to keep honey bees but I'd never heard of the solitary types. We have some excellent walls to think about doing as you have done. Hope you get new tenants very soon - I'm sure you'll be a fantastic landlady!
    Axxx

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    1. Thanks Annie - If they turn up in the hoped for numbers, I shall keep them clean for them too - also free of charge!!!

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  2. Oh how lovely. I can imagine how wonderful a bee skep will look in the dry stone alcove in your garden.
    Your Solitary Bee pied-à-terres are very swish. I'm sure you'll have Foxton's and Knight Frank on the phone before the days out!
    Merry Christmas Rosemary!

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    1. Thanks Paul - can't wait for the first ones to arrive and hopefully move in with us.

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  3. My dearest Rosemary ,when I saw this post I smiled ! I see that you like anything that live in your garden !!!
    It is lovely this little home ,but is another home that we use to see . I think that the bees will be happy ther and of cource for the flowers and trees that you have in your garden ! Please ,if you have time see at this blog http://melivrasna.blogspot.gr. Is my son's girlfriend ,they parents are honey producers .Your Santa's gift is wonderful !!!!

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    1. Dear Olympia - thank you for the introduction to the blog. It looks really interesting. I will try and follow it.

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  4. Such a great idea, Rosemary. Bees will certainly love the house and you'll have a lot of pollinators in your garden!

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    1. We neglect the bees at our peril - as you mention Satu, they are so important as pollinators worldwide.

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  5. Hi Rosemary,
    I shall be following your progress with keen interest. This could likely be a project for us at a future date, in another country. Like you, I love and am fascinated with bees. My art includes the medium encaustic (beeswax and oil paint)..
    Have a glorious week
    Helen xx

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    1. Dear Helen - now you have me intrigued as to what your possible project in another country could be.

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  6. Hello Rosemary, It is so important to encourage bees. In American most of the wild honeybees have died because of a mite infestation, and I have seen the results in lesser crops of natural, wild fruits. I don't know whether the bees' numbers have been impaired in England.
    --Jim

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    1. Dear Jim - some honey bee and solitary bee species are doing well and have increased their distribution in Britain, but others have shown a marked decline over the last 30 years. The mite is a problem here too, and also some diseases affecting the honey bee larvae caused by bacteria, fungi and viruses. They have also been affected by the loss of suitable habitat. The main way individuals can help is by giving them nesting sites and growing bee-friendly flowers.

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  7. What a sweet little apartment for homeless bees. Looking forward to seeing the new skep. It will be a lovely feature in your garden.

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    1. I hope that both the little wooden chalet, and the skep when it arrives, are soon inhabited by some bees.

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  8. Hi Rosemary, hope you had a wonderful Christmas! What a great idea to get a bee skep! You are not only supporting the bees, which is awesome by itself, but you are also supporting an ancient craft to live on. Your wall looks already like a work of art, but the bee skep in the alcove will be the icing on the cake. The wooden bee chalet is very cute and I am sure the solitary bees are happy residents! Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year 2014!
    Christina

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    1. Dear Christina - we used to be fascinated watching the drystone waller building in our garden. We were lucky to get someone with so much skill.
      Do hope that it will not take the bees too long to find the little chalet when I hang it in the alcove.
      Thank you for your new year wishes - I hope that you also have a very happy and healthy 2014 too.

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  9. It's a really good thing to be giving homes to bees. Do the solitary bees pollinate our garden plants in the same way that honey bees do?

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    1. Yes, they have a different lifestyle but all are pollinators in our gardens. There are some 200 different species of Solitary bee. They like to be positioned on a sunny wall, and it is a good idea to remove the nest site during the winter to a shed or carport so that they do not get too wet. They are not aggressive and rarely sting unless squashed and do not have painful stings like honeybees.

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  10. Dear Rosemary,

    Congratulations on your bee abodes! I think they're condos rather than apartments. I have been reading about the bee depopulation and know that it is much more critical to our own food sources than most people would ever imagine. And yet I didn't know the distinction between swarming and non-swarming bees. I do think your information regarding that could encourage a lot more people to join in your fine example. And I also think that Santa knows you very well!

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    1. Dear Mark - my offering to the bees is rather luxurious, but it is possible to make homes for them simply out of logs that have holes drilled into them. I do hope that more people will give them a home, and as I mentioned to rusty duck they are non aggressive and need a little protection during the winter months in this country.

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  11. Dear Rosemary, What a wonderful gift from Santa! As always, I learn something new from your blog: I did not know there were solitary bees, and the little apartment building for them is very cute. Having always thought of bees as having very communal lives, I am seeing the solitary ones as like little hermits! Bee skeps are lovely, and I look forward to hearing about your progress as Landlady Extraordinaire to the Bee Population :)

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    1. Dear Patricia - it is only recently that I discovered the difference between honey bees and solitary bees too. There are over 200 different solitary bee species - they are easy to give a little home to, and will work relentlessly in our gardens pollinating our plants for free.
      As I mentioned to Mark they will make homes in a log that has holes drilled into it - they don't need to have such an upmarket little chalet house such as my gift.

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  12. We had a bee population last summer in the wall off our house.
    There was a man coming, and he said that the bee populations in the Netherlands is no good...there are many populations disaper.
    Youre bee hotel is a verry good solution for lonely bee's
    Have a nice day.

    Greetings,
    Inge, my choice

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    1. I will not put the little chalet up until the warmer weather, but do hope that some bees decide to call it home.
      Hope you had a lovely Christmas.

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  13. Dear Rosemary,
    bees are so interesting - my grandfather had them as a hobby, and here in Berlin you find a lot of beehives on roofs of big monuments and hotels. Good luck for your bees - and don't forget to tell them what happens in your house (you know that ancient exercise?)

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    1. Dear Brigitta - no, I know not the ancient exercise - please do enlighten me.

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  14. I love bees and was delighted to follow you back from my followers list to your blog to read this post. xxx

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    1. Thank you for your visit Lyn - glad you enjoyed seeing the bee post.

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  15. What a good idea to have your own bee alcove - I've been told that my Gran kept bees during WWII and we still have one of her 'skips'.
    Look out for Tree Bees, we had a colony in a crevice above an old disused stable door at the front of our house - they are fascinating to watch.

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    1. Dear Celia - how lovely to have your own vintage family bee skep.
      I am looking forward to the bees colonising the chalet - there are so many interesting Solitary bees - some apparently line the hole with mud, and leaf cutter bees bring leaf parts to line them.

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  16. Dear Rosemary,what an interesting post!!!The bees must be lucky with the little apartment building !!!And now you'll have your own honey!!!Such a lovely idea!!!Wishing you a happy weekend!!
    Dimi...

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    1. Dear Dimi - sadly no honey from solitary bees, but may be when I get my skep.

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  17. I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas holiday! This was a very interesting post...I just love honey!
    Take care,
    Titti

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    1. Dear Titti - thank you for your visit. Glad you found the post interesting - I love honey too.

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  18. What a great idea Rosemary.
    You will be able to have your own honey.
    A super post.
    Honey is very healthy and has curative properties in it.
    Do you remember my post about being stung by a bee. It was not a honey bee, as it didnt leave its sting.
    After a few days. I felt so well with my hip and back.. I read up more about bees.. and they are still used for curing ailments one being arthritis. Fascinating creatures.
    looking forward to seeing your apartments taken.
    Happy New year to you and Mr. H.
    Val xx

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    1. I think that I must have missed that post Val but how very interesting. There is probably much more about the bees that we do not know, however, what we do know is that without them our crops of fruit, vegetables and flowers would fail if they were not here.
      I shall put the little chalet up at the end of March and look forward to some early arrivals.
      Hope that 2014 will be a good year for your Val.

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  19. An encouragement for the bees.
    The bees are about down here.

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    1. Our bees are tucked away at the moment until the warm sun appear again. They are very sensible.

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  20. Beautifull pictures but I don't really like bees. A bit afraid of them.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. They will not touch you if you leave them alone.

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  21. What a wonderful present that Santa has bought both you and the homeless bees! Your skep will look so beautiful in your wall. My son gave me an insect home for Christmas too!
    Sarah x

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    1. Snap Sarah - I like those little insect homes - is it made of small bamboo canes?

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  22. what a great idea, I love bees+their products too...hope they start doing better! merry belated Xmas to you:-)

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    1. Hope you had a lovely Christmas Jana, I am in time to wish you a Happy New Year.
      Hope that the little bees make their home with us.

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  23. Bee skeps are beautiful - just watch out for those aggressive tree bees!

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    1. I had to look up tree bees - apparently they are a type of bumble bee. I don't think that they are likely to live in my chalet, but if they do I will treat them with respect.

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  24. Hi Rosemary,

    That is so cute. I love bees+honey.
    From: Bea Cupcake

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    1. Hi Bea - The little solitary bees that I hope with live in the chalet do not produce honey, but I too like bees and honey.

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    2. Oh well. How many bees can it hold?

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    3. If all the little holes are filled there should be 24 bees living in it♥

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  25. Dear Rosemary, I've been absent from blogging over Christmas and I'm just catching up now - so I'm a bit late coming to your wonderful post about bees. The bee chalet is superb and I think it's fabulous that you're having a traditional skep made by a local craftsman. As you say, skep making has sadly become such a rare skill now. I would love a traditional skep of my own - they are still the best way of collecting a swarm of bees from a branch, hedge etc (much better than a cardboard box). I can't wait to see your finished skep!
    Thank you, too, for the kind mention of my own blog.
    I hope you had a lovely Christmas and Happy New Year!

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    1. Dear Wendy - I am very pleased with the little chalet but do not intend putting it outside until about the end of March, hopefully that will be the right time for the bees to come and decide whether or not to live with us.
      The man who is making my skep also makes the flat bottom swarm collecting skeps.
      you might be interested to see his website here:- http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/cotswoldbeeskeps/pageb.htm

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