University creates real buzz with installation of two hives at halls

Bee keeper for Pollock Halls, Matilda Bell, is pictured with the bees. Picture: Greg Macvean
Bee keeper for Pollock Halls, Matilda Bell, is pictured with the bees. Picture: Greg Macvean
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THEY are hard workers, enjoy living in a community and often create a buzz.

But the latest residents to move into Edinburgh University’s Pollock Halls are not students, but bees.

Two hives with an estimated total of 30,000 bees have been installed in the grounds of the student residences.

Staff and students could soon be selling jars of Edinburgh honey and enjoying honey cookies in the canteen, as well as learning first-hand about bees and how to look after them.

Accommodation manager Sandra Kinnear, who is in charge of the project, said the hives had been introduced as a pilot scheme to help reduce the university’s carbon footprint, boost the diminishing worldwide honey-bee population, and give students and staff an opportunity to learn more about beekeeping.

She said: “We’ve had a quite a lot of construction work on the site in the past few years and we have probably lost some of the wildlife that was here, so we have put up some bird boxes and the bees are another part of that.”

The hives – whose bee population could rise to around 100,000 at the height of summer – are not intended as a money-making exercise, but honey will be an inevitable 
by-product.

Ms Kinnear said: “We probably won’t have enough for it to be fully commercial, but we might have a few jars on sale in reception for our summer vacation visitors.

“We have catering facilities here so we could make honey cookies, and we could use beeswax to make candles as gifts.”

Ms Kinnear said there had been some controversy over installing the hives since Pollock Halls is a residential site with more than 2000 students. She said: “Some people said that if there were high jinks and something happened we could be in trouble, even though we have done all our health and safety risk assessment. But the site has so many trees and flowers that honey bees would flock here anyway because it’s full of food for them.”

The hives are enclosed by a fence and a padlocked gate. Signs warn people not to go beyond a certain point unless kitted out in protective clothing and there’s a CCTV camera to keep an eye open for intruders.

“Health and safety is crucial to us. We don’t want people coming and getting hurt,” said Ms Kinnear.

However, the bees selected for Pollock Halls are noted for being docile – a “laid back” breed of Italian descent.

Students and staff will be able to take part in group sessions to take a closer look at the hives and find out more about bees from beekeeper Matilda Bell, from West Linton, who was chosen by the university to introduce the hives.

Ms Bell said bees were under serious threat from disease and beekeepers were urgently needed to ensure the worldwide bee population survived.

She said: “If we don’t manage them properly we won’t have any bees. We could lose a third of our food crops if we didn’t have pollinating insects.

“If even one person goes on to have a hive in their garden I will be delighted.”