conservation environment

Could we all support pollinators by keeping bees… as pets?

My mum is a dedicated beekeeper, and always has four or five hives on the go in the back garden. I love her enthusiasm for bees and I share her fascination with their apian ways, but while I’ve enjoyed helping out occasionally, it’s not something I’m ready to do myself. It can be a lot of work, and there’s a lot to learn. I have small children running around in the back garden. Perhaps I’ll be able to keep bees later in life.

In the meantime, it would be great if there was an easier way to take part – like keeping bees as pets, rather than the full commitment of maintaining a hive of honeybees.

Strange as it may seem, that’s what Swiss company Wildbiene and Partner suggest. They make a range of beehouses that come with 25 mason bee cocoons. The house can be set up in a garden or on a balcony, and it will soon host a small community of pollinators. Mason bees aren’t like honey bees. They don’t form colonies, don’t make honey and they don’t have queens. They don’t sting either, which is why Wildbeine and Partner can market them as pets.

But they do pollinate, and that’s the main point. The company was set up by two biologists who were concerned at the decline of bees, and the consequences for farming and food production. Mason bees flit from flower to flower feeding as they go, so there are no round trips back to the hive. A single mason bee can pollinate as many plants as 300 honey bees.

Wildbiene and Partner are operating in French and German at the moment, but their video is conveniently wordless. If you’ve come across anyone doing anything similar with wild bees for the English-speaking market, let us know about it in the comments.

4 comments

  1. CJ Wildlife supply coccoons only, for £25: https://www.birdfood.co.uk/red-mason-bee-cocoons.html
    and MasonBees.co.uk offer a ‘Bee Guardian’ scheme for £49.99, in which they supply cocoons with basic ‘houses’, and a freepost scheme where they receive your autumn’s crop of coccoons, screen for diseases/parasites, and send you back 20 healthy coccoons in the Spring. They do this for free in perpetuity, distributing any extra cocoons to new customers or for research or stocking commercial farms/orchards: https://www.masonbees.co.uk/bee-guardians. I’m very tempted to join with a few neighbours to run a ‘joint bee guardian’ scheme – that way we each get a few coccoons, split the costs and have some fun together in the process!

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