Over 60,000 bees are back in residence at Bayer CropScience’s developmental farm at Chishill with the installation of two hives.
Bees have been kept at the 20 hectare site for over ten years, but following the retirement of the previous beekeeper they’ve been absent for nearly two. But now the bees are back, thanks to a small team of local bee enthusiasts and, six weeks after moving house, the bees are settling in.
“It’s a great location for bees,” says Professor Paul Sibbons, who looks after the bees with Dr Tahera Ansari, Geoff Creek and Tina Creek. “They will have year-round foraging with all the fruit crops, arable crops and wild strips.”
Bayer CropScience, the UK’s leading manufacturer of crop protection products, uses the site to test and develop new as well as existing products. The company has maintained a plum orchard on the farm, which together with thistles, wild clover, willow, brambles and ivy forms the basis of the bees’ diet, along with crops of oilseed rape. This year the farm is including beans in the rotation, which will extend the range of foraging opportunities available to the bees.
“The beans will help the bees produce even better quality honey,” explains Prof Sibbons.
The bees are under close observation. Prof Sibbons monitors all his hives, which include those at Harrow Hospital, Burwell, Heathfield and Duxford, carefully. “Like all forms of livestock, bee-keeping is a form of husbandry. With bees it’s the number of frames they occupy, the quality of the wax, the total population, the numbers at different growth stages and the different types of bees - workers, foragers, cleaners and guard bees – that indicate the health of the hive.”
Prof Sibbons hopes to have up to six hives located at the development farm within the next few years and to be harvesting his first honey crop next summer.