Sci­en­tists study for their PhBee

The Scotsman - - Features - GE­ORGE MAIR

SCOT­LAND’S old­est uni­ver­sity has es­tab­lished a honey bee colony in its grounds to try to help save the de­clin­ing species and pro­duce its own honey.

St An­drews Uni­ver­sity said its bee keep­ing ini­tia­tive – the first of its kind at the 600 year old in­sti­tu­tion – would de­liver a sus­tain­able bee pop­u­la­tion for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

The colony will en­able re­searchers at the uni­ver­sity to make ef­fec­tive be­havioural and eco­log­i­cal ob­ser­va­tions, and al­low lo­cal vol­un­teers to be trained to ob­serve high stan­dards of bee hus­bandry. High qual­ity honey to be pro­duced on cam­pus as soon as next year.

The uni­ver­sity will work with Fife Bee­keep­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, and it is hoped the first colony will lead to oth­ers around the uni­ver­sity’s es­tate.

Bar­bara Aitken, St An­drews Uni­ver­sity en­vi­ron­ment of­fi­cer, said: “It’s quite sim­ple. If honey bees didn’t pol­li­nate, crops wouldn’t be able to grow. So in­tro­duc­ing the honey­bee to our es­tate will play a vi­tal role in main­tain­ing and en­hanc­ing bio­di­ver­sity across cam­pus, whilst also giv­ing our aca­demics the op­por­tu­nity to carry out vi­tal re­search – and in the long term we may get some honey.

“Un­for­tu­nately, due to a com­bi­na­tion of wet weather and pests, such as the Var­roa mite, bee colonies across the UK were sig­nif­i­cantly weak­ened, so this year it’s about build­ing up and strength­en­ing colonies be­fore the bees yield any honey.

“An im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion on where to lo­cate the hives on cam­pus was the avail­abil­ity of food and wa­ter for the bees and as a re­sult the Es­tates Grounds Depart­ment will be plant­ing a va­ri­ety of fruit trees to pro­vide the bees with a di­ver­sity of the fo­liage re­source they need.”

The Fife Bee­keep­ing As­so­ci­a­tion will also use the site to train new bee­keep­ers at week­ends.

Spokesman Wil­liam Macrae said: “The Uni­ver­sity Es­tates depart­ment have been very help­ful in set­ting up the api­ary and we hope to es­tab­lish an­other api­ary in the heart of the town be­fore too long.

“This should en­able us to train be­gin­ners in the prac­ti­cal as­pects of bee­keep­ing and we hope it will lead to re­search which may help to stop the de­cline.”

Bee­keep­ing con­trib­utes to lo­cal food pro­duc­tion and also helps sup­port our en­vi­ron­ment through pol­li­na­tion.

Bees are worth £26 bil­lion to the global econ­omy, but the BUT­TER­FLIES that usu­ally live in warmer parts of the coun­try have been drawn to the north of Scot­land by cli­mate change-driven tem­per­a­ture in­creases, a new re­port has claimed.

The world’s biggest ever but­ter­fly count, held this sum­mer by the char­ity But­ter­fly Con­ser­va­tion, has dis­cov­ered that the pea­cock but­ter­fly, be­low, has colonised the north­ern­most part of the coun­try, while the comma and speck­led wood species have also in­creased in num­ber in the High­lands. honey bee is un­der threat from a num­ber of pests and dis­eases, in­clud­ing the Var­roa mite. In the past 20 years there has been a 50 per cent de­cline in bee num­bers in Bri­tain.

Re­search by the Na­tional Pollen and Aer­o­bi­ol­ogy re­search unit has shown that hon­ey­bees in sub­ur­ban set­tings en­joy a more di­verse diet than their ru­ral coun­ter­parts.

The ur­ban bees find a richer di­ver­sity of pollen be­cause they visit a much wider range of flow­ers than bees for­ag­ing in the coun­try­side.

Pic­ture: St An­drews Uni­ver­sity

Bill Macrae of Fife Bee­keep­ing As­so­ci­a­tion with some uni­ver­sity bees

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