A PUB in Swettenham has given a home to 350,000 honey bees who have been rescued from wild colonies in roofs, chimneys and cavity walls.

Beekeeper Chris Bowyer, who carried out the rescues and is looking after the hives, said: “Wild colonies found in buildings are often destroyed, as they can present a safety hazard.

“Normally, beekeepers aren’t insured to carry out rescue work but because I used to work as a builder I’m insured to do it.

“I don’t see any point in killing the colony if there’s a chance they can be saved, particularly as honey bees carry out vital pollination work for our food crops and are steadily declining in the UK.”

The Swettenham Arms was able to offer the perfect home for the rescued bees as it has its own two-acre lavender field, containing thousands of plants for the insects to feast on.

Knutsford Guardian:

The lavender meadow

Chris has now installed seven hives in a quiet corner at the back of the field where they’ll be undisturbed.

He added: “It’s difficult to estimate how many bees are in each hive, but as a rough estimate there will be between 50,000 and 60,000.

“These numbers will start to decline as we head towards the winter. We’re hoping to get around 20 to 40 pounds of honey per hive, although that’s dependant on the weather which has a big effect on food sources.”

As well as the lavender, the bees will be collecting pollen from wildflowers along the Dane Valley, and flowers in the nearby Quinta Lovell Arboretum.

“Visitors are welcome to come and see the hives and the honey bees dancing through the field,” said Chris.

“We do ask you not to get too close to the hives themselves, though, and we’ve got a security fence in place to give them some space.”

Chris is making regular visits to look after the hives, and is happy to chat to visitors about how the bees make honey and even offer some honeycomb for tasting.

Frances Cunningham, owner of the Swettenham Arms, said: “We’re delighted to have Chris and his bees here. Our lavender meadow is spectacular and unique, and it’s lovely to think that the bees are getting as much pleasure from it as we do.

“We hope to have some honey for sale in the future, from our own bees, which will be very satisfying.”