Apiaries are springing up across Middlesbrough as local communities are bitten by the beekeeping bug.
A taste of pure home-grown honey is on the cards as Middlesbrough Environment City’s ‘Bee Friend’ initiative goes from strength to strength.
Five new honey bee colonies have been housed in apiaries at Whitehouse, Saltersgill and Town Farm Community Allotments and at Stewart Park.
Guardians for each have been appointed from the first cohort of new beekeeping trainees to finish the ‘Course in a Case’ beekeeping certificate, which was delivered by the Cleveland Beekeepers’ Association, who are also supporting the project with ongoing training and mentoring assistance.
Many other trainees have taken up beekeeping as a result of Bee Friend, including Hemlington Hall Primary School teacher Martyn Walker whose new hive has produced Middlesbrough’s first ever school honey!
Catherine Boyle, Grown in Middlesbrough Project Co-ordinator at MEC and manager of the Bee Friend initiative, said she was thrilled with the success of the project which has been undertaken in partnership and with the support of Middlesbrough Council.
“We’ve trained 33 people already, with a waiting list for later this year and beyond, and the community apiaries are giving us a real opportunity to dispel the myths about bees and to promote the wonderful work they do in fertilising our food crops,” she said.
“We need the bees in our community vegetable gardens to give us the best yields and the more food we can grow ourselves, the less we have to rely on expensive foreign imports that inevitably have a huge impact on the environment globally.”
The impact of the new bees is being felt particularly strongly at Middlesbrough’s allotment sites. Middlesbrough Council’s Area Care Manager Simon Blenkinsop is pleased with the surge in interest in beekeeping at the sites.
“Our allotments are becoming a haven for wildlife,” he said.
“More and more allotment keepers are realising that by keeping bees and employing bee-friendly gardening techniques, they can reduce their use of chemicals producing better, healthier crops.
“It’s great to see the popularity of beekeeping increasing amongst Middlesbrough’s allotment holders; it is the least we can do especially as honey bee numbers are reported to be on the decline nationally.”
Martyn Walker, of Hemlington Hall Primary School, believes that beekeeping has been a real boost to school pupils.
He said: “In 20 years of teaching, the opportunity to keep bees on our site and introduce our children to this fascinating world has been one of the most satisfying things I have ever done.
“Middlesbrough often receives negative comments from outside the area, but our approach to nature - such as conserving bees - shows that the people of Middlesbrough care about their environment and the nature within.
“We lead the way in this, and the beekeeping initiative is a fine example of people striving to reconnect with the natural world.”
Things are buzzing at Stewart Park too. Education and Events Officer Francine Marshall and colleague Nicky Morgan completed training earlier this year, and their community bees are busy collecting pollen and nectar from the park.
Francine said: “This has been an amazing opportunity and we are so excited about our bees! We have had an excellent introduction to beekeeping and with the support of our bee mentor we hope to have some Stewart Park honey very soon!”
Bee Friend is funded through a Big Lottery Local Food grant, with match funding provided by the Healthy Town programme, and will run until April 2012. For more information, please contact Catherine at Middlesbrough Environment City on email@example.com or 01642 811300.