Scientists study for their PhBee
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.
Bill Macrae of Fife Beekeeping Association with some university bees