Blog | Bee prepared
With bees on the decline, it’s just as well that one Scout Group has been creating a buzz.
Bees are in trouble. According to the BBC, the number of honey bees in the UK has halved over the last 25 years. The consequences for us are more serious than missing honey on toast for breakfast. Bees pollinate a third of the crops we eat and it would cost UK farmers £1.8 million a year to pollinate crops without bees.
Bees are disappearing for a variety of reasons, but more than a third of hives did not survive the harsh winter of 2012.
At Heage Scout Group in Derbyshire, they have been keeping honey bees for four years. Leader Ian Coope explains: 'It all started when we were offered an allotment that nobody wanted because it looked like the Borneo rainforest! We received charity funding to produce food and took up beekeeping to make honey.'
The Scouts play a key role in keeping the hives happy: 'Their job is to take the Queen bees and put them into a breeding nucleus colony with several bees.' Beekeeping clearly has a positive impact on the young people: 'They realise where their food comes from and get a different outlook on life. We rely on bees for our food supply.' As for the idea of a future without bees, 'it scares the woggle off you!' says Ian.
Selling honey has helped to keep the project going and it’s certainly been popular with the local community: 'We sent out an email and sold 25kg of honey in a fortnight! Some of them buy it as it’s thought that local honey helps to prevent hay fever.'
Ian Coope has some tips for Scout Groups interested in beekeeping: 'Go to your local beekeeper for advice and speak to someone who has an orchard. There are plenty of people who can help and lots of information online.
- Honey bees have five eyes.
- Bees which search for food, water and pollen sources are known as 'scout bees' - could it be due to their good navigation skills?! They do a 'waggle dance' to show the other bees what they have found.
- Bees fly at an average speed of 20 mph, in flight a bee beats its wings around 180 times per second.
- Bees are able to sense and use gravity to navigate in a completely dark hive.
- Plant some bee-friendly flowers. You can grow them on a window sill, a balcony or in your garden. Bees are also fans of raspberries, thyme, squash and courgettes.
- Support your local beekeeper and buy their honey. Contact the British Beekeepers Association for details.
- Help thirsty bees – in warm weather leave a dish of water in your garden or on your balcony. Put some stones or corks in the water so the bees have a landing pad.
Make a bee hotel
Of the 250 species of bee in the UK, most are solitary bees. Unlike honey bees, they hardly ever sting. Attract solitary bees to your garden and give them a place to nest with this 'bee hotel'.
What you’ll need
- String, garden twine or garden wire
- An empty plastic drinks bottle
- Bamboo canes around 1cm diameter and/or hollow dead stems of garden plants.
- Some smaller twigs or plant stems
What to do
- Cut the neck off the plastic bottle and make a small hole in the base.
- Cut the bamboo canes/hollow dead stems into lengths equal to the height of the bottle. Ensure that they all have hollow ends.
- Thread the string, twine or garden wire through the bottle allowing enough length to make a loop for hanging the bee hotel.
- Push the bamboo canes/hollow dead stems into the bottle, adding smaller twigs or plant stems to ensure that they are tightly packed.
- Hang your bee hotel on a sunny wall at least one metre off the ground. Make sure it’s sheltered from the rain.
Alternatively, instead of using a plastic bottle, make a wooden frame. Cut a plank of untreated wood into four pieces and assemble a frame. The ideal size is 20cm deep, 30cm wide and 30cm high. Pack the frame tightly with bamboo canes/hollow dead stems and hang on to a wall with a hook.