The Scottish Parliament has taken delivery of two colonies of bees, which will live in hives in the grounds and produce up to 90lbs a year of “Holyrood Honey”.
Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick said it was hoped it could be enjoyed in the parliament canteen and also put on sale to visitors in the gift shop. Each hive contains around 10,000 bees. They are expected to take advantage of nearby Holyrood Park and roam up to two and a half miles from the hives.
The initiative comes amid growing concern about a dramatic decline in Britain’s honey bee population. The insects are responsible for over half of the annual pollination of all crops, produce, fruits and trees in Scotland.
The bees at the parliament are of a variety known as Buckfast, but apart from the name there is no connection with the tonic wine.
Buckfast bees are known for their calm temperament and productivity.
Paul Holmes, chair of Kelvin Valley Honey, a community company which will manage and maintain the bees, said: “People may well think the association is quite funny but it is a great variety. The bees are calm, acclimatized to the Scottish climate and are prolific honey producers.”
He praised the parliament’s commitment to the environment in becoming the first UK legislatures to have beehives.
He said: “Having honey bees at its heart not only benefits the Parliament but, through increased levels of pollination, also benefits the wider Edinburgh environment. This is a wonderful opportunity for Scotland’s law makers to observe at first hand the work of these amazing insects and the vital contributions that they make to our everyday lives.”
Ms Marwick was on hand yesterday, kitted out in full protective suit and hood, to take delivery of the bees.
She said: “We are looking forward to trying the first batch of honey.
“What we are hoping is we can get some honey this year, but I suspect it will be next
year before we get the full amount.
“We have an agreement with the Kelvin Valley Honey company, who gave us the bees that they get half and we get half.
“We would like to see some honey used in our canteen, but I would also like to see wee tubs being sold in our souvenir shop and I think we should call it Holyrood Honey.”
Beekeeper Heather McLean from Kelvin Valley Honey, who was overseeing the bees’ arrival, did suffer a sting as she installed the hives.
Last year she was stung 37 times. But she said it did not put her off.
“You get used to it,” she said. “You still swear – but only once.”