Honeybee hives in school

I am regularly asked about keeping honeybees in school. I usually respond by saying that it is a great idea and will offer the pupils many opportunities for learning about bees and other pollinators, pollination of plants, livestock management, building life skills and working together as a team.

There are many more positives too.

I always suggest a school starts with planting for pollinators in their school grounds first though. The more forage there is around for the honeybees the more successful they will be and you will be supporting other pollinators as well which is an added bonus.
However, establishing an apiary can be a lot of work for the school staff and there are many other points to consider.

You will need a minimum of 2 committed staff who will train as beekeepers.
Honeybee hives need weekly checking from April to October so will need care during the school holidays and possibly in the evenings or at weekends if the weather during the working week hasn’t allowed for inspections.

You will need training and support from your local beekeeping association. We provide an
introduction to beekeeping course annually for a fee. It is a good idea to have a mentor, an
experienced beekeeper who you can ask for assistance and queries.
Is your site suitable for beehives? Is there enough space away from the school building, neighbours and local buildings. Is the site secure and safe from vandals and thieves? Do you have storage space for the equipment?

There is a set up cost to beekeeping. Hives – £200+ each, bees – £200 per colony, suits – £100 for an adult suit etc. This can be a significant amount of money and there will be on-going costs for equipment every year. Do you have funding? Can you apply for a grant?
Risk assessments and safety procedures will need to be in place. The apiary will need to be
maintained – grass cut, brambles cut back etc.

Insurance for the honeybees, public liability and bee disease insurance will be required. You must speak to the insurance department of your Local Authority to say you are planning to have honeybees onsite.
Will the headteacher be supportive? What will other school staff and parents/carers think? Will they be happy?

You will need a plan for how you will include the pupils and school staff in the honey bee
management and take advantage of the learning opportunities they can all benefit from.
Swarms will be an annual event regardless of how well you manage the bees, they will do what they want to do and it is their natural instinct to swarm. You will need to be prepared for these and take action immediately.

There are a number of schools in the UK that have honeybee hives on site. Llanishen Fach Primary School in Cardiff has had hives for the last few years. Emma Davies is the contact there and is the Schools Co-ordinator for the Welsh Beekeeping Association and a Cardiff Association committee member. She can be contacted at schools@wbka.com

 

Meriel Jones – Chairperson, Cardiff Beekeeping Association, chair@cardiffbeekeepers.co.uk

 

 

If you would like to find our more on keeping bees in school, please look at the following links;

Bees in the Curriculum by British Beekeepers Association

Bees in the Curriculum by British Beekeepers Association

Everybody seems to care about bees these days but how much do we really know and understand?

Written for Key Stages 1 and 2, this teachers pack is a neat introduction to Bees and Minibeasts, Bee Products, The Beekeeper and Pollination.

The online pdf resources pack has three sections containing many usable worksheets. The headings are;

Understanding the world,
Science,
Science and the environment.
We have used scientific section headings for usability. This doesn’t mean a waggle dance could not be a PE lesson, or label design couldn’t become an art class!

Do remember you have to be a BBKA member – this is open to all schools members and all full members of the BBKA.

If you haven’t already, please get in touch with your local branch/ association to become a schools member

Once registered on the Bees in the Curriculum website then your membership can be validated and then you can log in to Bees in the Curriculum.