Honeybees are the world's leading and most important pollinators, and are depended upon for at least a third of the world's food supply, and it is estimated that without them our diet would be limited to some grains, fish and grapes, and that’s about it. Last year a study by the European Commission listed the UK as of the six countries in the EU where the death rate of bee hives was “unacceptable”. Intensive agriculture, climate change, low honey prices and bee-related diseases, such as Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder were all factors that were influencing the decline.
However, a number of social enterprise groups across Europe are using bee population projects to offer work and training opportunities to urban areas. One such group is the Liverpool-based Hope Street Honey. In just the last three years they have produced over one hundred trained bee-keepers and many of those people who undertook the course were unemployed or low-skilled. As well as practical training, it involves areas such as what workwear clothing needs to be obtained and used. The project aims to produce locally produced products within a community setting and by giving associated courses on nature, including practical elements such as planting a variety of flowers, this attracts bees too.
Further funding has allowed the project to expand by offering bee hives and bees to local communities, and to increase education about the situation of the bee. It has also been able to influence decisions about what should happen to unused land, especially on what should happen to it, and in certain cases what is planted on it.
This has a dual impact on improving community open areas, and providing employment and a saleable project which can be used in various ways. It’s worth remembering that it takes 66,000 flowers to make one bottle of honey beer, so this is one natural resource we really need to look after properly.