Blenheim Palace is used to welcoming royalty, but when a queen bee inadvertently led her colony to swarm on a stone plinth outside the Duke of Marlborough’s private entrance it was decided she needed to be gently escorted off the premises.
Blenheim Estate’s head forester and beekeeper Nick Baimbridge was called in to collect the thousands of bees.
Normally a smoker would be used to pacify the swarm, however due to their proximity to the Palace, Nick decided to try and collect the queen by hand knowing the rest of the colony would then follow.
The Blenheim estate has a significant population of wild bees and Nick and his team have created a series of natural hives, made from fallen trees.
The hives are made with wood from the estate’s timber stacks, many with rot or holes in, which mimic the types of sites wild bees would naturally choose to nest.
As well as providing a safe place for the bees they also allow them to be monitored and protected.
“As all our natural hives are currently occupied, I have placed the queen and her colony in a separate hive, which will also allow us to identify whether they are a native species of honey bee or not,” said Nick.
“It will then be a case of letting her be while the queen establishes her new home, which may not be quite as grand as the palace but is definitely a lot more suitable,” he added.
As a large estate, acres of Blenheim’s woodland and grassland has remained relatively untouched for centuries.
This makes it a haven for native bee species, which can forage on the estate’s extensive natural flora and wildflowers.
According to a recent study published in Nature Communications, one-third of the UK’s wild bee population has disappeared over the past 30 years.
The natural hive initiative is part of the Estate’s wider land strategy recognising the importance of valuing the wider environment’s ‘natural capital’.
Natural Capital is a radical new model, which assigns importance to precious resources, like good air, water, soil, woodland, green spaces and biodiversity, in order to promote the best long-term decisions.