The Bee Network – what a buzzing opportunity!

Bees, I have always had a soft spot for them. I was that weird fearless child who would push past my screaming mother with a glass and card to save that panicked little bee who just couldn’t figure out why the window wasn’t a passageway to the outside world again. From a very young age, I have always respected animals and found them absolutely fascinating.

As a recent Zoology graduate from the University of Leeds, I learnt even more about the importance of bees, not only for the maintenance of our ecosystems, but also to provide us with food via crop pollination. It wasn’t until I was lectured by an academic here that I heard about the three hives on campus and I knew I wanted to be involved with the Beekeeping Network as soon as possible. Protecting our bees is so important, especially as their population numbers are crashing due to increased urbanisation, pesticide use and introduced disease. Beekeeping benefits our bees by helping to re-establish their colonies and can improve local pollinator rates which in turn has a huge positive impact on your “feeling sorry itself” garden. We of course get a taste of locally sourced honey which is special in itself, and this of course reduces the demand for imported stock that has travelled a long distance, therefore cutting back on carbon emission impacts. There really wasn’t any reason why I didn’t want to sign up!

The first meeting took place in February where I was met with a lot of friendly faces including Jen Dyer. It was rather wonderful being in a room full of people who all wanted to be a part of something that benefited our bees as well as themselves. A few slides were presented to us that gave an overview of the colony structure and included some photographs of the hives from previous years. I never actually realised how many bees can fit inside a hive, it’s madness! A virtual hive was used during this session instead of a real one as the colder months leave the bees feeling very sleepy and inactive. This virtual hive wasn’t the most techy, yet still very informative. It consisted of a wooden box that contained several sliding panels with various pictures of the hexagonal structures inside. We were asked to identify which hexagonal cell contained honey, wax, eggs or diseases such as chalkbrood, a fungal disease that attacks the eggs and larvae. This triggered a lot of discussion and interaction which was fantastic as we were all able to learn from each other. We were informed that with the following months comes the buzzing activity and honey harvesting, so bring on the warmer weather!

I have now signed up to the Beekeeping Network newsletter and avidly follow their Facebook page which provides activity updates and general bee news. Feel free to contact Jen Dyer at j.dyer@leeds.ac.uk if you wish to find out more! It’s time to save our bees!

Written by Emily Rampling (Administration Assistant – SCAPE)

The Big Annual Crocus Planting

On the 18th October we will be running a crocus planting event, this should be a fun opportunity to get out over a lunch period and meet some of the sustainability team. The real importance of our annual crocus planting is to ensure there is a range of flowers on campus all year round, not only to provide for our bees but also to give some life and exuberance to the University through the bleaker months. The commitment to biodiversity on campus is evident through the beehives we have at several locations, but we need staff and students to help our bees and ensure the campus stays vibrant year-round, while also providing habitats for invertebrates. After a great year in which we gathered upwards of 95 jars of honey from University hives we are looking to keep up the strength and numbers of our bee populations. Take a look at our Biodiversity page for more information on our strategies http://bit.ly/2y0gEbE

The Big Annual Crocus Plant volunteer sessions are open to everyone, but also provide a great opportunity for anyone who is part of the Green Impact scheme to show staff participation and awareness of sustainability events on campus.

Equally, no experience is required at all, if you fancy getting out and about for an hour make your way down to behind Edward Boyle Library (near the Stage@Leeds building) on the 18th October.

Signing up on our Facebook event page http://bit.ly/2hIQcNj and let us know which session you would like to attend  – 12pm-1pm or 1pm-2pm  – by emailing the sustainability department at sustainability@leeds.ac.uk.