What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
Decline in honeybee numbers Honeybees in the UK and all across the world are not having a good time of it at the moment. Increasing loss of habitat, agricultural monocultures, and the prevalence of pesticides and herbicides are all bad news for bees.
Decline in Beekeeping Population Beekeeping is a tradition that dates back at least 4000 years. It is a mixture of practical craft and biological science. In general it is accepted that ‘wild’ honeybees no longer exist in the U.K, so beekeepers play a vital role in sustaining honeybee populations within our ecosystem. Despite this, beekeeper numbers have dropped significantly since the 1990s. Perhaps this is because nowadays, as well as managing colony size and honey stores, a large part of a beekeepers job is to protect honeybees from an increasing number of viruses and disease which can be challenging, stressful and sad, putting people off keeping bees.
Poor quality and imported honey can be detrimental to national bee health and responsible beekeepers. These honies usually come from poorly managed, intensive bee farms. As the bees collect the honey from UK packaging facilities disease can spread to the local beekeeper.
Loss of Biodiversity in local Parks due to Government funding Cuts Extensive and continued government cuts have meant matters of horticulture are often some of the lowest points on local council agenda. Plant life and biodiversity in parks is suffering, and access to diverse nature for people living in urban areas is being challenged as a result. Funding cuts to Parks and green spaces are more acutely felt by in the North of England than in the South. Severe budget pressures to local authorities are set to continue.
Increased levels of Hay fever experienced throughout the UK.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
The European Commission in their EpiloBee study reported that mortality rates of bee colonies in the U.K over the winter 2012/2013 were 28.8%, some of the highest in Europe. While the University of Sussex, supported by the BBKA, estimate that there was a mean average of 21.9% colony loses in England and Wales between 2007 and 2010.
In 2010 the International Bee Research Association estimated that there was a 31.4% decrease in the number of beekeepers in Europe between 1965 and 2005.
It is estimated that 40% of imported honey contains spores of deadly viruses such as American foul brood. Imports such as these are way that the virus can enter the UK.
“Over £75m has been cut from England's parks and open spaces since 2010, according to a report from the thinktank Policy Exchange. The cuts show a north-south divide, with spending reductions more than twice as great in the north and the Midlands than in the south.” The Guardian 19/11/2013
Around 25% of hay fever sufferers are allergic to tree pollen, traces of which can be found in local honey. It is widely considered that by eating local honey, hay fever can decrease the symptoms brought on by hay fever (a process called desensitisation).
What is your solution?
We will increase the number of colonies in our local area while also increasing the amount of forage available to them. A simple pollination equation: More pollinators = more plants for pollinators, more plants for pollinators = more pollinators.
We are a co-operative of young beekeepers. Our age goes against the trend of beekeeping perceived as a hobby for retirement. Our group, as well as increasing the number of beekeepers in general, could serve as an example to other young people to take up beekeeping seriously earlier in life.
Providing locally produced honey would give people access to quality, ethical honey, and enable them to forgo low quality alternatives.
We will increase the variety of pollinator plants in local parks and public spaces and see that these are maintained, bringing seasonal colour back to parks without relying on council authorities.
We can make local honey accessible to hay fever sufferers.
How will you deliver this?
At first we will establish one hive in Longford Park, and care for the colony throughout the season with equipment and knowledge.
At the honey harvest, we will make surplus honey stocks available to the Park community via the Park’s café.
During the winter months we will introduce a variety of shrub species to the area surrounding the hives, giving the bees forage during flora space months.
After testing the working relationship between the bees, park using community and council authorities we will propose the format to other South Manchester Parks with suitable areas for keeping bees.
After the initial input, the project would be financially self-sustaining: profits generated by the sale of honey and soap items would go back into caring for the bees and their surrounding habitat.