Bee Keeping

Hawkinge Allotments Bee Keeping Guide.
Background – The bee population in the UK is experiencing a dramatic decline. Bees are important pollinators for our allotment crops and flowers. Bumble bees along with honey and wild bees are suffering following a poor summer last year and are not fairing well this year (2013)  either. There are around 18 true bumble bee species and many are seriously under threat due to the loss of their habitats. Bumble bees are the major pollinators of our plants and vegetables and if they continue to disappear our plants will be unable to set seed which will result in sweeping changes to they way we grow our food. Gardeners are urged to plant more wildflowers and insect friendly plants in their gardens to help the bees in their fight for survival.
General Information & Guidance for All Members of The Hawkinge Allotment Society.
Honey Bees are kept in hives and managed by members of our Society. Several thousand bees could be in one hive. Keep a good distance and they will not disturb you. On rare occasions bees will Swarm and Cluster.
If you see this event make a note of where and when and notify a member of the committee (The Current Committee members & their details are always on the Notice -Board outside the Club House). Arrangements will then be made to have the bees collected and re-hived.
No plots currently have active hives, however one  productive hive is located in the copse (wooded area) away from other members and communal areas. 

Bee Keeping at Hawkinge Allotments.

It is important to site beehives so that the entrances face away from allotment paths and preferably other allotments. This is to keep the bees flightpaths clear so that mid-air collisions with human beings can be prevented! In a collision, bee and human get frightened, the bee defends itself in the only way it knows, and stings the human! Another possibility is to put fencing panels, screens or bushes around the hives or facing the entrances so that the bees have to “fly high” when they com out of their hives.

Bees are not naturally aggressive in this country but, like any creature, they are defensive of their colony and especially their honey. Bees can become aggressive by cross-breeding, interbreeding or bad beekeeping. This can usually be rectified by changing the Queen to one from a colony that is know to be gentle. Some races of bees are recognised as being gentle e.g. Buckfast, Italian, Carniolan. The BBKA’s very strong view is that members should not be keeping aggressive or bad-tempered bees – to avoid litigation and to keep beekeeping’s good name with the public. Stories of super-aggressive “Africanised” bees are nonsense in this country at present – it’s too cold for them to survive!

HAS Management Committee Responsibilities / Criteria.

A member wishing to keep bees on our Allotments must first seek the agreement of the Management Committee and must undertake to abide by the rules stipulated and must satisfy their competence or that they have arranged supervision.

A member keeping bees must satisfy the Management Committee that they have made adequate arrangements to ensure that any problems caused by their bees in their absence will be resolved.

HAS Management Committee are responsible for policing the conditions that Bees & Hives are kept.

HAS Management Committee may insist on a member being a member of the local Bee keeping Association with the benefits of their third party public liability insurance via affiliation to the British Bee Keepers Association.

Siting beehives and handling bees on Hawkinge allotments

Things NOT to do

Do not install a hive without first checking and gaining permission from the HAS Committee. Do not place hives where the flight lines taken by the bees will cross pathways or contact people working on their plots. Do not allow beginners to keep colonies of bees on allotment sites unless they are supervised by an experienced beekeeper. – the local beekeeping association can usually help with this. Do not handle or work with the bees when plot holders are gardening in that area. Do not allow the bees to increase and swarm unexpectedly – manage the hives carefully.

Things to DO

Do plan to place hives away from any communal area of the site and other plot holders

Do restrict the number of colonies.

Do place a notice / sign on your gate so that other members are aware of the location of a hive with bees.

Do raise the take-off flight line to at least six feet.  Use hedging, fencing or mesh round the apiary to make sure the bees fly up high as they leave, and do not cross other plots.

Do try to work on the hives only when the bees are very active, so that fewer remain inside, and make sure the beekeeper is accompanied so as to get help in an emergency.

Do make sure your fellow plot-holders are at ease with the idea!    Yes, we all depend on bees pollinating our vegetables, but someone could be allergic.

Useful Links

British Beekepers Associatioon Open Letter to Allotments Managers.
British Beekeepers Association
Kent Beekeepers Association