Got bees but nowhere to put your hives? Try talking to the Co-operative
Beekeeping is, by tradition, a rural past time with orchards, large gardens and the edges of farmers' fields all pressed into use as areas for beekeepers to set up their hives.
But as interest grows in honey-production and concerns come to the fore about the best way to help struggling bee populations to thrive, urban dwellers are taking up the hobby.
Some enthusiastic town and city beekeepers claim the variety of plant life in parks and gardens make our built up areas just as profitable a hunting ground for the nectar seeking bee as rural areas, where – in some parts – pressure to increase agricultural yields means fields are a monoculture of plants unsuitable for the questing bee.
Now, under a new scheme, would-be beekeepers with nowhere to put a beehive are to be matched with suitable land in an initiative aimed at harnessing surging interest in urban beekeeping.
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The "Hive Talking" website is designed to connect people who want to keep bees with gardeners and allotment keepers who are happy to have bees on their land, by enabling them to register their location on an interactive map. The scheme is part of the Co-operative's £1 million Plan Bee campaign to address the plight of the honeybee, amid concerns that the population has halved in England between 1985 and 2005.
The campaign has also supported courses in urban beekeeping and established city-based hives.
Chris Shearlock, sustainable development manager at the Co-operative, said: "More and more city dwellers are taking up beekeeping but not everyone has the space to keep bees.
"On the other hand, many have the land but not everyone has the space to keep bees. By bringing these parties together, Hive Talking could help reverse honeybee decline in the UK."
Brian McCallum, co-founder and director of Urban Bees who came up with the idea for the interactive map, said: "Some of the beekeepers I have trained have struggled to find land on which to keep their bees, but as honeybees are pollinators of many wildflowers, fruit and vegetables, allotment holders and gardeners appreciate the benefit of accommodating a hive on their land."