Making a Buzz at VQ!
Part of our Environmental Policy is a commitment to protect and enhance biodiversity on the Scottish Government estate. In June we introduced a bee hive at Victoria Quay in Leith to join the existing biodiversity pond and wildflower meadow there. Before the addition of the VQ hive there were already three hives within the Scottish Government Estate at Science & Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA). The existing hives have been useful for learning, training and increasing biodiversity (and producing honey!). So far the bees at VQ have been settling in well and we hope that this continues.
Victoria Quay was chosen as an ideal site for the hives following a survey of the area by Lead Bee Inspector for Scotland Steve Sunderland and Alison Knox from our Animal Health and Welfare division. Steve stated that VQ would be ideal as the site is rich in urban fauna for the bees to work on. The Environmental Management Team were tasked with designing a secluded area at VQ where the bees could live without being disturbed.
Edinburgh and Midlothian Beekeepers’ Association (EMBA) have provided their help and expertise in setting up our hives and carrying out weekly bee inspections to check their progress. We’ve been able to help them out too by letting them use our hive to train future beekeepers. It is necessary for aspiring beekeepers to gain experience working with a hive before they are allowed to own bees themselves. Our hive has been a valuable learning experience for all involved and we are looking forward to tracking its development.
In order to introduce interested staff to the world of beekeeping, EMBA held a lunchtime seminar for staff. They talked about how bee colonies function, how the association take care of bees, and how to get involved in beekeeping. We are holding another bee information event on 8th September for Scottish Government staff, with a talk from bee inspector Steve Sunderland. For further details drop us an email at EnvironmentalManagement@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.
As well as increasing biodiversity on our estate, the bees at VQ add to a wider effort to conserve bee species which are in decline. As you can see from the graphic, bees are crucially important to our environment and food chain. However, they are threatened by parasites, disease, habitat loss and the use of harmful pesticides.
Habitat loss greatly contributes to bee species decline. 97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have vanished since 1945 meaning there are far fewer naturally bee-friendly spaces. In addition to this, many homeowners unintentionally create a hostile environment for bees, butterflies and other pollinators through use of pesticides, mowing lawns down regularly and removing plants such as clover and dandelions as they are viewed as weeds.
How you can help
The future of bees may seem uncertain, but there are things everyone can do in order to help safeguard the species. Not everyone has the time or desire to become a beekeeper, but there are simple things you can do to make your garden a pleasant environment for bees and help boost their numbers. Swapping even a section of your lawn for a range of flowers and plants will brighten up your garden and increase biodiversity by making bees and other insects feel at home. Check out The Ecologist’s advice on creating a wildlife-friendly garden for bees, birds and butterflies here.
Once you’ve attracted bees to your garden there are simple things you can do to help them out. In the summer months it is not uncommon to see a bee lying on the ground, seemingly dead, when in actual fact it’s probably just exhausted from all its hard work pollinating plants. When the weather is hot we might have a sugary drink to energise and hydrate us, and bees are no different. The RSPB suggest mixing two tablespoons of white granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water and placing in an egg cup or other small container to be placed near bees’ favourite flowers. Alternatively you can leave the spoon itself next to a tired bee and watch it lap up the mixture. Seeing as bees are so important to our ecosystem and food production, it’s the least we can do!
For more information on EMBA, including how to deal with a swarm and information about the beginners beekeeping classes and online learning courses, check out their website.
You can also visit the Scottish Beekeepers Association website here.