Bee Keeping

Bee Conservation

“Every third bite of food you take, thank a bee or other pollinator”
E.O. Wilson, Forgotten pollinators 1996

INSPIRING YOUNG MINDS –  The team at Beefayre are available to do talks, lectures and workshops at schools, community centres and fairs. We also welcome visitors to the Beefayre garden which is teeming with wildlife. In Spring 2016 we began planting a wildflower meadow at Beefayre HQ and encouraged local families to come and visit to see the progress and spot all sorts of pollinators.  If you are interested in booking us to do a talk or workshop please call the office on 01858 434492.

GET GARDENING –  We can all do our bit to help bees and other pollinators. By planting lots of different flowering plants that are attractive to insects, you can increase and encourage more pollinator species in your garden. Flowers with short corollas, such as borage, are very attractive to shorter tongued pollinators and honeybees in particular, while lavender, which has longer corollas, is much more popular with a range of longer tongued pollinators, particularly bumblebees. Bees act as a barometer of the health of our planet. Protect them and we protect our future.


One of the single best things you can do to help our bees and pollinators is to plant some flowers. Even a few plant pots of a window box of wildflowers or herbs is a great start. Alternatively, allowing a corner of your garden to grow wild can be a boon for wildlife. However you may want to consider converting some of your garden to wildflower meadow. Not only does this look spectacular but it will be amazing for pollinators and other wildlife. The UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows following World War 2, and this is one of the main reasons are pollinators are in trouble. So the more people that convert small areas of their garden into wildflower meadow, the better, and we can begin to reverse some of this loss.

Wildflower meadows may require a fair bit of work initially to establish, but once the seed is sown, little upkeep is required. Select a sunny spot. Autumn time, in September, is the best time to sow the wildflower seeds (with some wildflower species require a winter frost to trigger germination in spring), the exception being on clay soils where spring is preferable. It is important to match the native wildflower seed mix to your soil type…here at Beefayre HQ we opted for a clay soil wildflower seed mix due to our clay rich soils. Try to use UK provenance seed, which is sourced from your local region, and so help conserve local species of wild flowers best adapted to one’s local area, while maximising chances of success.

Meadow Preparation

Your lawn or topsoil will likely need stripping. It is likely to be over-fertilised and full of grasses that can outcompete wildflower species. This can be achieved via digging with a spade if one is preparing a small area, for larger areas use of a rotavator can be helpful. Cast the seed over the bare ground, for small plots one can tread in the seed…for larger plots, water filled rollers can be hired from your local tool hire at little expense. This helps to ensure the seed has good contact with the soil, helping facilitate successful germination. Water regularly. This is very important when the seeds are first germinating, the soil should remain moist during this phase. Avoid the use of fertilisers and pesticides.

In small to medium plots, mix your seed with sharp sand to ensure an even spread of seed. The sand also helps to highlight any unsown patches against the darker Earth. 4g of seed per square metre is usually recommended unless your seed supplier states otherwise. For larger plots, pre-mix seed in sand in buckets and scatter evenly for a good distribution.

On larger plots, a compact tractor and blecavator or power harrow can be used to prepare a weed free seed bed of bare earth. A turf cuter can be used if removing a top layer of turf, if converting an area of lawn into wildflower meadow. For smaller, uneven or patchy sites, a rotavator can be hired and may be preferable to break up the soil. The soil should then be raked and rolled to make a firm soil surface. Weed matting used over the summer months can also be used to create bare earth, after raking. This is a chemical free way of controlling weeds, and facilitates germination of undesirable weed seed prior to sowing wildflower seed germination, and these can be removed. Do not rake soil immediately prior to sowing, as this can create an additional flush of weeds.

Meadow in Bloom

For nutrient rich soils, a general purpose meadow seed mix containing hardy species such as common knapweed and meadow cranesbill would be recommended. A reputable seed supplier will provide different seed mixes relevant to different soil types and site conditions.  Yellow rattle is a common addition to seed mixes, this being an important addition as it is semi-parasitic on grasses…by weakening the often dominating grasses, it allows other wildflower species to become established.

Individual wildflower plants can also be planted in the meadow to help boost biodiversity quickly (remember to stay peat and fertiliser free). Local stock grown from seed can be sources from nurseries. After mowing, either cut out a section of turf and turn upside down, or remove, and plant using a bulb planter or trowel. Back fill if necessary, and position the plant in the hole so that it sits level with the ground, and water after planting. New plants can be planted at a density of 6-10 per square metre…autumn planting is best, followed by spring.

Cutting and Harvesting

The meadow will need cutting, but this is best done in late autumn after the flowers have seeded and much of the invertebrates have departed in preparation for winter. The plant material is harvested and removed from the meadow to stop nutrients returning to the soil…most wildflowers thrive better on nutrient poor soils where they aren’t likely to be outcompeted by grasses.

Any course weeds should be removed before you sow the meadow…some plants like dock and thistle have deeper tap roots and will not be eliminated by removing the surface later of soil.  Hand weeding with a fork and spade of deeper rooted weeds is a good idea over the summer, helping to exhaust the weed seed bank.

Here at Beefayre HQ we bitterly regret not doing this years ago! It is hard to put into words the sense of joy one feels while looking at their motley meadow buzzing with life!

Creating a Wildflower Meadow

Buglife LogoBuglife is the only organisation in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates, and they are passionately committed to saving Britain’s rarest little animals, everything from bees to beetles, and spiders to snails. Today bugs are under threat as never before and their aim is to help to secure a diverse and wildlife-rich planet for future generations.  For more information about the amazing work they do visit their website:

Bumblebee Conservation Trust also do vital conservation work in the rare bee areas and the general outreach work to help raise public awareness of the plight of the bumblebee. They aim to add much needed wildflowers back into the British landscape; whether it is in people’s gardens or the farming countryside.  BBCT were also the inspiration behind our ‘Seeds for Bees’ cards.  For more information visit:

Friend of the BeesFriends of the Bees is a non-profit Community Interest Company, run entirely by unpaid volunteers. All their income is dependent on donations and is used to fund projects designed to improve conditions for pollinators, with a special emphasis on bees – and not just honeybees, but all pollinator species indigenous to the British Isles.

Here are some links and websites you may find useful:


Friends of the Earth:                       

Bumblebee Conservation Trust:    

Bee Guardian Foundation:             

The Barefoot Beekeeper:                

Pesticide ActionNetwork UK:           

Natural Bee Keeping Trust:            

Soil Association:                             

Friends of the Bees                         



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