The house in Wales where there are so many bees honey comes out of the walls

At Plas yn Rhiw, urgent roof repairs are being carried out by the National Trust. The only problem? The 50,000 bees that live there.

We love bees here at Country Life. In fact, most people, in most places, like bees, unless you are allergic to them. But even still, I would be willing to bet that even allergic people like bees, they just don’t want to be stung by them, for obvious reasons.

The reason for this is that bees pollinate things, like flowers and wheat, and that stops the environment from collapsing or, rather, stops it from collapsing as quickly. Bees are useful because they stop the world collapsing and as a result we like them. There. Simply written.

To Wales, then, where it was announced last week that some bees are on the move. Not usually news, this, as bees are often moving, in and around your face and your plants and sometimes in giant swarms that force you to run for your life waving your arms around. Sometimes they attack tennis players.

No, these bees are being moved on purpose, so that the National Trust can repair the roof of a house in Wales in which the bees live. The bees, the National Trust reliably informs me, are safe in temporary accommodation.

All of this is important because the bees are a rare type of black honeybee and there are approximately 50,000 of them in this house. Now I know what you are saying. You are saying: ‘who lives in a house with 50,000 bees in it’. And I reply: ‘three sisters in the 1930s named Eileen, Lorna and Honora.’ The black honeybee was considered extinct in all but the most remote parts of northern Britain (Scotland?) until 2012, when they were rediscovered, presumably, in the roof of this house, known as Plas yn Rhiw. 

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The bees were carefully rehomed by experts from SwarmCatcher, while their roof is repaired. Credit: Iolo Penri/National Trust

The house was restored from neglect by three sisters, who then left it to the Trust in 1958. There was, however, a unique condition. Is it bee-related? It is. ‘We earnestly wish that the wild bees be undisturbed. May all occupiers of the property be requested to refrain from using poisonous sprays and preparations for the control of pests and advice on harmless methods be sought,’ they said. In English, it means, don’t mess with the bees.

In case you might be wondering what living with 50,000 bees might be like, per Mary Thomas, property operations manager at Plas yn Rhiw, ‘we occasionally have honey oozing from cracks in the walls’. Which I imagine is what happens when you cross Winnie the Pooh with The Shining. 

‘We know the Keating sisters were very fond of nature and wildlife as they campaigned tirelessly to protect the environment and were ardent supporters of the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales,’ continues Ms Thomas. ‘Plas yn Rhiw is a haven for wildlife and it is no surprise that when the Keatings restored the house, they made it a home for more than just themselves. Along with rabbits in the garden and badgers in the woodland, the bees living in the roof were welcome and remain so today.’

The gardens and parkland at Plas yn Rhiw have since reopened, but the house will remain closed as conservation works continue. We can only hope that the bees are not too upset at their temporary home and that they will soon return to their Welsh rafters.