A buzz in the air at Broughton Park

There is a buzz in the air at our Skipton office this week with the safe arrival of two bee colonies at our new bee hive site nearby. As part of JBA’s Sustainability Fund, we’re sponsoring a new apiary to help encourage pollinators and improve biodiversity in the local area.

Our colleague and expert beekeeper Andy Evans has been the driving force behind this exciting project and will be sharing regular updates from the JBA bee hives. In his first blog, Andy has been telling us all about the challenges of finding and relocating a bee colony – and most importantly how the bees are settling into their new home.

Welcome to the JBA bee hives

“We’re off! After months of chasing round the countryside after mythical swarms and retiring beekeepers, we’ve finally managed to acquire some bees! Two colonies are now safely tucked up in hives in a lovely young woodland on the Broughton Park Estate. And so starts our plans for an area to encourage local pollinators.

We’re starting with honey bees, as they are important pollinators and we have the knowledge and access to equipment to help them thrive. There is also the bonus that they may produce some spare honey! Ultimately we plan to support a wide variety of native bee species, including more bumblebee species, and we hope to get involved with national programmes for mason bee breeding.

How to find a new bee colony

Traditionally the start of the beekeeping season is May, but it has proved surprisingly hard to find bees this year. In general, there are three ways of getting colonies:

  • Perhaps the strangest is to mail-order them, but this is generally to be resisted unless the bees are guaranteed disease free and checked by a local bee inspector – transporting bees around the country can risk spreading bee diseases from area to area.
  • The second is to get on the list of the local swarm control officer for swarms. Swarms tend to start in May, especially given the warm Springs we’ve been having lately, and every area will have a local swarm control officer who can be called to take away swarms that have ended up in gardens or on the side of buildings. These swarms are divided out among local beekeepers who are looking for colonies. Beekeepers who hear of swarms can also just go get them themselves – the tradition is to swap a swarm for a jar of honey!
  • Finally, the third way of getting bees is to beg or buy colonies from local beekeepers and beekeeping clubs who breed them up for local beginners

    JBA bee hives at Broughton Park

Swarms

So far this year, we’ve investigated four swarms, all of which proved to be either impossible to get at or ‘casts’: tiny practice swarms that aren’t viable colonies; and we’ve also talked to two retiring beekeepers, both of which had just given away all their bees – so we were starting to feel fairly unlucky! However, a generous beekeeper in Ilkley got in touch last week to say he had heard we were looking and had two colonies he’d carefully been looking after for us and we’d be welcome to them if we wanted them! Exciting!

Moving bees to our new hives

The bees were in two ‘nucs’ (‘nucleuses’) – small half-hives that are built for swarms and transport, so we picked them up and carefully transferred them into our hives and let them settle in. They were soon busy getting the hive as they like it, investigating all the nooks and crannies that need filling to secure the space, along with all the frames of wax we’d put in to make it easier to start building up the hive. After a week of letting them settle in, we revisited and they were doing excellently, with lots of activity at the entrance to the hives – plenty of bees heading in and out, and clearly enjoying the local wildflowers.”

Want to know more?

And so our journey starts. Follow the #JBABeeHives on JBA’s Twitter and Linkedin channels to keep up to date with how they’re doing as the weeks progress. If you’d like to know more about the bee hives, do get in touch! Contact Andy Evans.



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