Monday, 13 July 2020


In the midst of this quirky summer the answer is they’re in our garden. What started as a way of consoling ourselves in lockdown became a thing of overplanting just to see what happened.  The mallow, campion, scabious, cosmos, salvia, lavender and penstemon are all jostling for position in our flower beds and getting taller and taller. It’s rather exciting.

Where have all the bees gone? Well we saw few last year but now our garden is crammed with swarms of humming, happy bees. They are accompanied by butterflies – and I’d nearly forgotten what they’d looked like. 

Like many people I’ve tended to take bees for granted. I’d heard of course of their dramatically declining numbers. This year it’s different. The bee crisis got celebrity publicity through Morgan Freeman and Jeremy Clarkson both becoming bee keepers buying millions of them Clarkson calls them the ”corner stone of everything… the keystone species.”

But bees are quite complex. There are over 270 different bee species in the UK – there were over 300. The females work incredibly hard collecting pollen and making honey. The males lounge about with their friends in the hive – if there was such a thing as a Bee Bar they’d be leaning forward with a glass of nectar and saying “I sure fancy that queen.”

What I realised the other day were not just the economics of bees and the benefits of honey but that the buzzing of bees and their sheer business – rushing from petal to petal – reminded me of being a small boy again. Back then bees, butterflies and cricket were what summer was all about.

But the economics of bees is not irrelevant. As I watch them at work I am blown away by the unremitting industry they show. The average hive produces 24 jars in a season and the value of their pollination of farm crops and trees is valued at around £ ¾ billion a year. 

So as Chaucer coined it, time to get “busy as a bee”. After nearly four months of slightly aimless inertia it’s hard to get the motor firing up again – we have all become hermits retreated into our furloughed sanctuaries. It’s not so much a question of “distancing” ourselves from each other as excluding ourselves from social contact. Greta Garbo was alleged to have said “I want to be alone” – I know how she felt because I’ve started to feel like that myself.

As I read the paper each day I see a mixed world right now. Anger. Solitude. Protests. Division. I don’t see too much joy except, thank God, in nature.

Happy bees are  the best news of all.  Time to reflect. Me? I’m reviewing my life options right now. Our house is gleaming with fresh paint. It’s up to all of us to make the best of life just like those bees. Let’s make this a better (not an angrier, adversarial or dirtier) place. Let’s just enjoy a wonderful summertime.

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