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Helping halt bee decline

University gives grounds for optimism

The University of St Andrews has established its first honey bee colony on University grounds, with the support of the Fife Beekeeping Association.

Beekeeping contributes to local food production and also helps support our environment through pollination. Bees are worth £26 billion to the global economy, and £200 million in Britain.

However, honey bees are currently under threat from a number of different pests and diseases, including the Varroa mite. In the last 20 years there has been a dramatic 50 per cent decline in bee numbers in Britain.

The University of St Andrews beekeeping initiative will:

  • Help deliver a sustainable bee population for future generations
  • Pave the way to high quality honey production
  • Enable University researchers to make effective behavioural and ecological observations, and
  • Allow local volunteers to be trained to observe high standards of bee husbandry.

Barbara Aitken, University of St Andrews Environment Officer said:

“We are absolutely delighted to have been given a wonderful opportunity to work with the Fife Beekeepers.

“Its 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 yummy 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 foriage resource they need and so weather permitting we may get some honey next year!”

The Fife Beekeeping Association intends to use the site as somewhere to train new beekeepers at weekends.

William Macrae of the Fife Beekeepers Association commented:

“The Fife Beekeepers Association is very pleased with our joint venture with the University of St Andrews. 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 in the numbers of honey bees.”

It is hoped that more hives will follow at other sites across the University’s estate, resulting in the potential to produce University honey.

The University of St Andrews grounds should provide the honey bees with an attractive environment. 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.

NOTES FOR NEWS EDITORS

Roddy Yarr, the University’s Environment and Energy Manager, is available for interview on 01334 463995.

Issued by the University of St Andrews

Contact: Emma Shea, Communications Manager on 01334 462 109 or email Emma.Shea@st-andrews.ac.uk

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