There’s a buzz around the Chiswick garden and not just because it’s spring. The garden is now home to two new hives of native Australian bees - tetragonula carbonaria - also known as the sugar bag bee.
Cultivated for their honey, these stingless bees are amazing pollinators of native plants. Head chef Tom Haynes is delighted by the new additions to Chiswick. “Getting bees was another step in Chiswick’s sustainability journey,” he says. “Not only will they produce honey, but they are also essential to the ecology of our garden and as pollinators for our local area.”
The bees live in two spots in the Chiswick garden. The first hive by the watercress bed benefits from morning sun and afternoon shade. The second hive, at the rear of the garden near the worm farm, is a more recent addition and is nestled in a lemon tree.
The bees’ daily activity is fascinating to observe, says Tom. “The bees become active each morning when the temperature is around 18 degrees and a few of them venture out tentatively then pop back into the hive. When the bees are out foraging for pollen, we can usually observe up to ten of them standing guard at the entrance of the hive, checking for danger and inspecting the returning bees. It is quite awesome to watch.”
Honey from native Australian bees is more viscous than the honey from European bees, and has a sweeter, more floral and citrus flavour. Chiswick’s first batch should be harvested at the end of October, with the second hive expected to produce honey in six months.
Tom says he’ll be using the honey in various ways. “We can put it with cheese, use it with our garden beetroots, and incorporate it into a fun summer cocktail.”
There are big plans for the bees, says Tom, including eventually splitting the hive and establishing one at Chiswick at the Gallery. For the time being he’s just excited they are there.
“The next time you’re dining at Chiswick, we’d be happy to take you on a tour and show you our cool little bees.”