Explore the Life of the Honeybee at the Hive in Kew Gardens
Surrounded by a wildflower meadow, it beckons you forth with its twinkling lights. Like a lighthouse standing watch in the night sky, there’s something utterly mesmerising about it. Beneath its beauty though, lies a serious message about the plight of the humble honeybee.
This unique and entrancing way of connecting with Nature’s little miracle workers is currently in residence in Kew Botanic Gardens. Visit before it takes flight once more.
The Foodie Travel Guide
Discover What all The Buzz is About
We’ve all read the headlines about the demise of the honeybee and its vitally important role as a pollinator. Visit Kew Gardens to see The Hive installation and you’ll discover so much more about the extraordinary life of bees. Why is it so important? Well, there has been a massive decline in the population of honeybees since the 1950s due to the loss of their natural habit, extreme weather conditions and the increased use of pesticides. As fields are turned over to crops rather than left as wildflower meadows, and front gardens are tarmacked into parking spaces, the honeybee has suffered greatly. The impact? Given that 70% of the foods we eat are pollinated by insects, they are an essential part of our food chain.
Have a Multi-Sensory Experience in the Heart of the Hive
Walking up to The Hive you may not know that it was funded by the UK Government as a showcase for British creativity, innovation and leadership in overcoming global challenges. What’s so very clever is that it’s connected to one of Kew Garden’s own beehives. The 900 pulsing LED lights and the free form music created as part of the immersive experience, respond to the bees’ energy levels as they rise and fall over the course of the day. Standing inside the honeycomb structure, strangely, feels deeply relaxing. If you’ve had a stressful day at the office, visit for one of Kew’s late night openings and let it soothe away your troubles.
Listen to the ‘Toot’ of the Queen Bee
Standing underneath the structure you can learn about how honeybees communicate with each other partly through vibration. A short vibrational pulse known as the ‘begging signal’ is a request for food exchange and, to translate the precise location of a food source, bees perform a pulsating ‘waggle dance’. It’s an odd sensation but you can ‘listen’ to these vibrational patterns including the ‘queen toot’, through your bones by placing a wooden stick in your mouth and covering your ears.
Shop For Honey Gifts and Products
Before you end your day at Kew Gardens, take time to have a browse in the excellent gift shop. Of special interest to foodies will be the bottles of honey mead, jars of golden honey, perfect for spooning onto porridge in the morning, and bars of honeycomb. For a delicious dessert, sprinkle honeycomb over vanilla ice cream before pouring over chocolate sauce. There is also a good selection of books on bee-keeping and how to make your garden more bee-friendly.
- Visit in the early evening or on a dull day to see the lights in their fully glory
- Combine your visit to Kew Gardens with afternoon tea in the Orangery
- Visit Kew on a Saturday to tour the Kitchen Garden and listen to the pollination talk (check the website for exact dates)
- Find out more about honeybees at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre (it houses the National Bee Keeping Centre in Wales), and at Buckfast Abbey in Devon
- Visit the Royal Kitchens at Kew Palace to learn about culinary life during the Georgian era
- Traditional cottage garden flowers are excellent for bees. Plant lavender, thyme, aquilegias, alliums, marjoram and comfrey.
Mr Hendricks says, “They tell me that registered disability assistance dogs are very welcome in Kew Gardens”.
How to Find the Hive at Kew Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AE
Kew Gardens Entrance Tickets
- Entrance ticket to the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens in London
- Visit Kew Palace (summer opening only)
- See highlights like the Hive, the Pagoda and the Treetop Walkway
- Explore the glasshouses and the newly re-opened Temperate House
- Recharge in one of Kew Garden’s cafés or find a pretty spot to eat outside (meals at own expense)
- Join a free guided walking tour of the gardens if you wish
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