Beekeeping Scout Group is sweet as honey
In Derbyshire, there’s a new buzz at the Heage Scouts’ allotment. The Group have just taken delivery of their first colony of bees, found on eBay, and the distinctive baggy suits are put on as the bees are introduced to their new home.
‘We’ve had the allotment for nearly two years, and bees were always part of the plan,’ says no-nonsense Scout Leader Ian Coope.
The group’s allotment has been a huge success story for the 85-strong group, who spend much of their summer programme out on the plot tending to the fruit and vegetable beds, and feeding the chickens that have, to date, notched up 18 eggs a day for their benevolent owners. The honeybees are the cherry on the top of a delicious, homegrown cake and the Scouts are excited.
Sting in the tail
‘Will they sting me?’ asks Amy as the hive lid is opened and the first batch dropped in.
The noisy swarm will start to produce honey within six months, carrying pollen from the multitude of flowers on the neighbouring allotment gardens to the hive. Heage Scouts plan to sell the honey at the local grocery shop, after striking a bargain with the greengrocer.
‘After a while the cost of building the hive and getting the bees will cover itself, as we get a £3-4 a pot, and should be able to make 80- to 100 pots a year. Local honey is good for people with allergies, as the bees collect pollen from local sources and combine it with the naturally healing agent propolis. This natural cocktail can help reduce allergic symptoms in sufferers of hayfever. Above all, it’s a positive activity for the Scouts. They get closer to nature and learn about how honey is made by getting in the suit and seeing the bees working away.’
The plight of the honeybee
In the last two years, the worldwide honeybee population has been decreasing at alarming rates, with no clear reason for the deaths being known. Many factors, from farming methods and pesticides to the lack of bee-friendly plants in household gardens, seem to have contributed to the crisis.
An estimated one in three mouthfuls of the food we consume is reliant on the pollination of bees, so the situation presents a real and present danger not only to bees, but to humankind as well.
Care of animals and the environment have long been central to the principles and method of Scouting, with Lord Baden-Powell including ‘A Scout is a friend to animals’ in the original Scout Law. Up until 1945 the Beekeeper badge was part of the Scout section programme, with the requirements including ‘knowledge gained in practice of swarming’ and general hive management.
Many organisations have been involved in campaigning for action to preserve the habitats and biodiversity to sustain Britain’s honeybee population, and in the same way, the Scouts of Heage recognise the importance of their new gardening pursuit.
‘We know that being friends to bees will stand us in good stead here,’ continues Ian Coope. ‘It’s all about looking after each other; you look after bees and chucks, and in time they’ll look after you. Simple, really.’
You can see more pictures from the Group’s allotment project on The Scout Association’s Facebook page.