Half Term Fun with Bee Walks and Exhibition at Brogdale Collections

For the June half term holiday this year we launched into our bee week of educational and interactive activities. THese were centered around the importance of pollinators to fruit farming and our wider environment. 

Brand new exhibition space

In preparation for this we first had to redecorate our tired looking learning lab with funding from the CLA Trust, to turn it into a welcoming space to house our bee exhibition. Not only did we repaint the interior, but the funding from the CLA Trust enabled us to wood clad the outside of our peeling portacabin to make it look more like a traditional wooden beehive.

Hunting down our bees!

“Armed with a net, a magnifying pot and lots of natural enthusiasm, we set about exploring our wildlife garden.”

The biggest attraction for our bee week has been the bee walks. Children get endless pleasure from catching bees and identifying them, before letting them go.  They develop an amazing confidence around bees and as a result engage with them and their habitat. Building on the walks we ran last year with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust we wanted to see if there was any change in the bee species we find around the farm.

We held three days of bee walks around the farm and had two walks each day.

At the start of each walk we talked together about what bees we found last year on the farm and the bees we expected to see this year. We looked at the way that we can catch them to identify them and let them go where we found them. We found the easiest way to catch them was on a flower when they were feeding. Then, armed with a net, a magnifying pot and lots of natural enthusiasm, we set about exploring our wildlife garden, wild pockets and meadow areas looking for bees and other pollinators.

There was a huge buzz of excitement over the three days as we managed to catch a variety of bees and identify them. We found White and Buff Tailed bumble bees, which are hard to tell apart, Garden bumblebees, Red Tailed bumblebees, Common Carder bumblebees and Honey bees – which was no surprise as we have hives of honeybees on the farm thanks to our funders:

  • Chapman Charitable Trust
  • Elephant pub hive sponsorship
  • The Nineveh Charitable Trust
  • Banister Charitable Trust
  • KCF – Lawson Endowment
  • The Robert Clutterbuck Charitable Trust
  • And the CLA Trust.

We also found other solitary bees around the farm and other pollinators at work such as butterflies,  beetles like ladybirds and hoverflies to mention just a few.

Brogdale’s Wildlife Garden

Once we had exhausted our bee hunting patience and energy in the hot days of half term, we then took to the shade in the wildlife garden. Inspired by the bee friendly mixes of plants donated by Edible Culture we then selected and planted some pollinator friendly seeds in compostable cardboard tubes to take home to your own green spaces to increase the food sources for our very own local friendly pollinators.

Our Bee Exhibition

Our intrepid bee walkers then got a chance to visit our bee exhibition. At the beginning of the exhibition journey explorers picked a bee and were encouraged to take it around the exhibition and help it to land on a flower and pollinate it.

In the first part of the journey, we explored what pollination is and why it is important. Although bees are not the only pollinators in our fruit orchards, they are really important ones. Bumblebees are used as early pollinators of our blossom as they work in lower temperatures than other bees.

We talked about why bees are important and what foods we eat are pollinated by bees and other pollinators. Some foods are exclusively insect pollinated, whilst other rely on the wind or are self-pollinated foods.  To emphasise this, we have a display of foods where you can guess which is which and turn over the bee to see if you are right.

In the next part of the journey, we asked who are our bees and introduce three types; Honey, Bumble and Solitary. We looked at their different homes, comparing where they live and think about which bees we have here at Brogdale which we found on our walks.

Life inside a hive

As part of this we had a real hive to look at, thanks to our funders, along with an imitation souper with frames showing actual photographs of what you might see inside a hive. Lots of this information is used by our resident honeybee expert Michael White on his bee keeping courses. Photographs show the bees, pollen, honey, capped brood and queen cells. Visitors can also get close to our beekeepers suit on display so that you can get a feel for what it might be like to be a beekeeper and take home a cardboard model hive sheet to make a model hive.

The exhibition also looked at how to help bees. The first exhibit was a bee watering hole which is a small waterproof shallow tray with some flat rocks in and a small amount of water. This provides a safe place for bees and other insects to land and drink or collect water without fear of drowning.

The second small thing we can do to help is all about planting some more bee friendly green spaces. We hde some wildflower meadow seeds some of which were donated by Meadowmania, which we encouraged visitors to take a pinch home in a paper bag to sprinkle in a green space or plant in a pot.

The final part of the journey was a craft activity area which had bee inspired craft activities to photograph and do at home and a quiz to take away.

Our enthusiastic and experienced bee volunteers not only supported our intrepid bee walkers, but also spent time in the exhibition space bringing it alive by answering questions on pollinators and bee keeping.

Swap and Save Seed Bank

As part of our bee friendly activities for the week we also developed Brogdale’s first, very own Swap and Save Seed bank. This project is aimed at encouraging us all to have a go and Grow seeds in pots or within green spaces and reap the benefits of a greener more biodiverse environment. We aim to encourage everyone to visit the bank and deposit any seeds they don’t need and withdraw a similar amount that they can take home to have a go at growing. We hope this seasonal activity will continue to grow and bee a focus for our positive action for pollinators work.

If you would like to find out more about our activities for children, please take a look at our website https://brogdalecollections.org/kids-activities/

Brogdale Collections carries out extensive education programmes for primary school aged children.  For details of facilities for school trips or outreach programme, see the education page on their website https://brogdalecollections.org/educational-visits-school-trips/

The National Fruit Collection is one of the largest fruit collections in the world and is located at Brogdale Farm, near Faversham, Kent.

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