Hives are thriving at school

Despite global concerns about falling bee numbers, one small colony tucked away in Shrewsbury is continuing to thrive.

The beekeeping society at Shrewsbury School is reporting that it has managed to keep most of its hives healthy and that a bumper crop of summer honey is expected this year.

“This is the most important part of the year for us because during late June the lime trees in the school grounds and in the Quarry Park across the river come into flower,” explained biology master Andrew Allott, who leads an enthusiastic group of pupils who tend the school’s apiary.

“Many people do not notice it, but when the lime trees come into flower the air at the moment is filled with a sweet scent and, if the weather is warm enough, the bees collect huge amounts of nectar in the long days of late June.

“The honey made from lime nectar is pale green and particularly delicious - we should be able to get a good crop honey this year.

“Most beekeepers would extract this in early August – we wait until September so the pupils can see how it is done and help,” Mr Allott said.

Members of the society each get some honey and the rest is sold for charity – last year several hundred pounds was collected for good causes.

The Shrewsbury School beekeeping group started almost 40 years ago but Mr Allott added that the last ten years of keeping bee colonies healthy had been very challenging because of a parasitic mite called Varroa and some virus diseases they carry.

“The biggest problem has been keeping colonies alive through the winter and we have lost about half our colonies in most winters. We therefore have to try to double the number of colonies during the summer which isn't easy.

“Added to this, the weather has been execrable for bees - cold and wet through much of last year and very cold in spring this year when colonies should have been feeding and growing stronger.”

Many beekeepers have suffered catastrophic losses of colonies but at Shrewsbury School four have survived this year and are now in good condition.

In addition, sixth form pupil Harry Boutflower (18), of Shrewsbury, was chosen to join the British Beekeeping Association as one of a team of three to represent the UK at the International Meeting of Young Beekeepers in Vienna.

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