The 10th Bee and Pollination Festival!

By Alice Maltby

So much is happening in the exciting world of pollinators at the moment. Even wasps have employed a new public relations team to promote their cause! Their key message is sacrifice a bit of your picnic to save the planet! One of the best news stories this year was that even though Notre Dame suffered that terrible fire, the bees in the three hives on the roof were unharmed.

2019’s Bee and Pollination Festival takes place this weekend (Saturday 31st August and Sunday 1st September_will be the best ever. Now in its tenth year the event has become an important feature in the south west’s horticultural, beekeeping and wildlife calendar.

Among the many new attractions this year is the opportunity to try your skill at identifying the honey in honey cakes. Bristol Beekeepers have commissioned Zest in Westbury on Trym to make a range of cakes including dairy and gluten free options.

Honey cakes have enormous cultural and religious significance since time immemorial. They are an essential part of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebrations. Anyone hosting a dinner party at that time should expect to receive several cakes from guests. Slavic countries also have their own version called Medovik (Meдobᴎk) layer honey cake. Legend says it was created by a young chef for the Empress Elizabeth, wife of Russian Emperor, Alexander 1.

Wildlife photography is always very popular among visitors and we are very pleased to be welcoming for the first time, Phil Savoie,  Biologist and award winning nature photographer. In his talk “”Wild Bees in my Garden” Phil will take his audience on a photo safari peeking into the private lives of native bees.

Facing up to Beetles by Michael Darby

Another new attraction is the fascinating art exhibition by Michael Darby, entitled: “Facing up to beetles.” Previously Deputy Director at the V & A Museum, Michael now pursues his life-long fascination with beetles and is one of our foremost experts. You will leave with a very different understanding and admiration for these vital insects.

Many bee enthusiasts will be pleased to know we will be featuring the latest information about the menace of the Asian Hornets. They are a major threat to biodiversity, the honey industry and food production with a single insect capable of killing 50 pollinators in a single day. The news has highlighted a new development that the hot weather means that these Hornets are frequenting swimming pools and beer gardens to get much needed refreshment.

Botanic Garden Curator, Nick Wray said: ‘The importance of insects as pollinators in maintaining healthy ecosystems and agricultural systems is well understood. The worrying demise of their populations and habitats is frequently in the news. This year’s Bee & Pollination Festival, now in its tenth year, brings together science, research with natural history and beekeepers to provide an amazingly stimulating festival for everyone. Of particular note are the talks by experts in their field, from the medicinal properties of honey to how to improve your garden for pollinations. With exhibits and demonstrations, the festival weekend provides a great activity for families with willow weaving workshops, children’s trails and popular cider and honey sales for everyone to enjoy’.

Another introduction is a series of poetry walks performed by the IsamBards Poetry quartet. Join them in a stroll around the garden and hear them recite enchanting site specific poems and new works created especially in honour of the bees.

There will be a potted fruit orchard and a beehive in the vegetable beds alongside the reflective pool and grand marquee.

A selection of other exhibitors include Filberts of DorsetUniversity of Bristol Biological Scienceresearchers, Writhlington School Orchid ProjectWanborough Herb NurseryTynings Climbers(Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) gold medal winners) Bee Depot (everything a beekeeper could dream of) Bristol Naturalists SocietyFriends of the Downs and Avon GorgeKelvin Bush Orchids, Mad Apple Cider (tastings) Bees for Development,

here Demonstrations will range from beekeeping techniques and the workings of a live hive, to learning how to build bee skeps and weave enchanting willow sculptures. As always we will have a full programme of international speakers in the Linnaeus Study Room.

If you’re visiting the festival be aware that the Downs also has a festival of its own on and there may be road closures; we’ll have AA signs around the area directing you to the Garden. The festival is from Saturday 31st August to Sunday 1st September, 10am until 5pm each day.


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