Gardener at Cambridge University gardener re-introduces bees; you can help! How to design a bee garden.

Gardener at Cambridge University gardener re-introduces bees; you can help! How to design a bee garden.


Bees have not been seen in Newnham College since the Second World War. Lottie Collis is changing that! Lottie Collis is a member of the Cambridgeshire Beekeepers’ Association (CBKA) and trained as a beekeeper over 10 years ago. She has been the head gardener at Newnham College since January. There is the anticipation that the five other gardeners that Collis manages will also train to become beekeepers. Her knowledge and practical experience has helped her to teach her gardeners how to design a bee garden.


The bee nucleus was funded by a donation given to Newnham by the alumnae group, The Guild of Friends.


“Bees pollinate everything and unfortunately they are in decline. As they are such a vital part of our eco-system, I thought it was important that we brought a colony back to Newnham College.”

Lottie Collis


Location, location, location!

The new beehive at Newnham College is in the wild area of the garden that belongs to the principal, Professor Dame Carol Black. This wild garden has become home to thousands of Apis mellifera European honeybees!


“Everyone should consider keeping bees in their gardens if they can


The bees were straight on to the job in hand and the staff and fellows at a garden party this summer were some of the first to test out the produce. Plants close to the beehive also experienced a produce boost due to the presence of the pollinators with plums, apples, and beans giving a bumper yield.



No room for a beehive? What else can you do?

How to design a bee garden: Here are my top 5 tips to make your garden bee-autiful!


  1. Food


Bees need pollen, nectar, or both as food. Pollen contains protein for bees for growth and to repair cells. Nectar is a sugary carbohydrate. Don’t worry too much about proteins and carbohydrates though; the bees will work it out for themselves.


  1. Access


This is one area that is often overlooked. Lots of plants produce copious amounts of nectar and pollen, but if the bees cannot reach in to get them, then unfortunately they are not of much use. Think about the shape of the flower head – a long and tubular shape will be difficult for the bee to reach into. Double flowers are usually a genetic mutation and provide little if any pollen or nectar at all.


  1. Colour


Bees and humans see colours very differently. While your garden design might be aesthetically pleasing for you, think about the colours that are attractive for the bees; bees can see ultraviolet! Plants such as foxgloves

are great for bees as they have ‘nectar guides’, spots of colours, that the bees follow to find the nectar (how neat is that?!) A good recommendation is to have a mix of colours and plants.



  1. Seasonality


No plants in flower? No food for bees! Research the climate that you are living in and plan plants that will flower when the bees are foraging for food.


  1. Water


Yes, water! It has been estimated that a colony of bees can drink up to 4 litres of water in a day! There is a problem though: bees cannot land on water and they can’t swim! To really help the bees, put some water down in a way that they can access it without drowning. Use pebbles in the water and moss so that the bees have something to land on to drink.



If you were wondering how to design a bee garden, then I hope that this has been of some help to you. It is said that bees have really good memories. If they find your garden is full of great plants and water, they will be back with their mates!



Find out more about the CBKA today!



Did you know?

According to the experts, swarming bees will not sting! I’m not sure that I want to test this theory out though.

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