A Swarm at Chelsea Flower Show!


Two attractive ‘workers’ bring some mead for (1 to r) Vince Cable, Tim Lovett and Bill Turnbull

There is a swarm hanging in a tree at this year’s prestigious event

YOU WOULD have expected panic among visitors but this swarm was the most docile you will ever meet. It was, in feet, an artificial swarm -painstakingly knitted by Caroline Sullivan, beekeeper’s daughter and former Knitting Editor of Family Circle.

The swarm of bees, complete with its queen, was hanging in an attractive lime tree (Tilia cordata) on the corner of the British Beekeepers’ Association’s (BBKA) garden in the Great Pavilion on the Chelsea showground. Under the tree was a skep, ready for the beekeeper to use.


This was the theme of this year’s BBKA garden, designed by Philippa O’Brien, a member of Twickenham and Thames Valley BKA (TTVBKA). Moving on from the recent doom and gloom about colony losses, the garden was designed to encourage gardeners to help bees in a practical way.

While flowers are eyecatching and provide bees and beneficial insects with nectar and pollen, a tree can be just as attractive and provide a greater equivalent area of blossoms. Take a large lime tree, for instance, and spread it out on the

ground and it will cover a very large area.

Philippa used nine trees to illustrate how forage can be provided from February to September and visitors could take a leaflet giving the details of these and alternative species. Philippa works at Capel Manor College and is very grateful to her students for providing the muscle power required to put the show garden together.

In the middle of the garden were two beehives to show just how little space is required to keep bees.



Bill Turnbull, from BBC Breakfast, and Vince Cable, MP for Twickenham and Lib Dem Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, were both at Chelsea to champion the bees. Given an appropriate opportunity, Bill will slip in a word about bees on his morning show and he is a very supportive patron of Bees for Development. Vince was among the first MPs to speak up in Parliament about the value of bees and the need to

provide money for research into the pests and diseases which afflict them. His wife, Rachel Smith, remembers how in those days he was somewhat derided for his stance but is now looked on as someone who could see the longer term importance of a seemingly minor matter. Vince is a Patron of TTVBKA.


The bee swarm was included in the garden to back up the BBKA’s call to the public not to kill swarms but rather to call a beekeeper. An advisory placard hung in the tree nearby.

Thanks to the publicity campaign organised by BBKA Press Officer, Christine Gray, and spearheaded by BBKA President, Tim Lovett, public awareness of bees has been greatly increased. It is hoped that they will heed the SOS (Save Our Swarms) and swarms will be collected this year to boost colony numbers,


Congratulations! The garden won a Silver-Gilt Medal.




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