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Cambridgeshire Beekeepers' Association : Guidance for keeping bees on allotments

Notes prepared by Cambridgeshire Beekeepers' Association for the guidance of Allotment Managers when considering the basis on which bee colonies could be readmitted to allotments.

HONEY BEES - What are they? - What do they do?

bulletHoney bees are insects that have been on Earth for about 100 million years, well before any humans.
bulletBees thrived without the help of man and still do in some parts of the world. At the beginning of the 2Oth century disease caused the demise of the native strain of black bee in England.
bulletSince 1992, when the varroa mite entered southern England from the Continent, bees in the UK have become more dependant on man. The varroa infestation has moved northwards and colonies in hives can only survive if they are treated to combat varroa. Wild honey bee colonies die out but bumble bees are not affected.
bulletThe main function of honey bees is as pollinators. They are of immense value to agriculture, horticulture and gardeners and are responsible for the pollination of crops estimated to have a value of 7 billion per year. Government ministers and other officers have shown their ignorance of this fact on many occasions and have dismissed bees and beekeeping as insignificant.

Siting beehives and handling bees on allotments

Things NOT to do

bulletDo not place hives in positions from which flight paths impinge on other allotment users or pathways.
bulletDo not allow inexperienced beekeepers to keep colonies of bees on the allotment without ensuring that the novice will have the benefit of guidance by an experienced beekeeper.
bulletDo not handle bees when other people are gardening in the immediate vicinity.
bulletDo not allow the strength of colonies to increase to swarming strength in an unmanaged way.

Things to do

bulletTry to arrange for hives to be sited in a remote area of the allotment(s) away from other plot holders.
bulletLimit the number of colonies in any area.
bulletEnsure that bees are encouraged to rise in excess of 6 feet before leaving the plot by the use of screening which could be natural hedging, wooden fencing or fine plastic / wire mesh screening. Ensure that the flight path (of low flying bees) is not directly across other plots.
bulletHandling bees should be done at times when the bees are very active, thus leaving fewer in the hive.
bulletAlways ensure there is someone else on site in case of emergency when handling bees.

Management Policy / Criteria

bulletA person wishing to keep bees on allotments must first seek the agreement of the Allotment Managers and must undertake to abide by any rules stipulated and must satisfy the managers of their competence or that they have arranged adequate supervision.
bulletA person keeping bees on an allotment must satisfy the Allotment Managers that they have made adequate arrangements to ensure that any problems caused by their bees in their absence will be resolved.
bulletAllotment Managers must be responsible for policing the conditions on which bees are permitted on allotments. Local Beekeeping Associations could be requested to appoint members to be available to offer advice if required but the members could not be responsible for any action by individuals or association members keeping bees on allotments.
bulletAllotment Managers or the local Council may wish to insist on a person wanting to keep bees on an allotment being a member of the local Beekeeping Association. Membership of a Beekeeping Association provides members with third party / public liability insurance through their affiliation to the British Beekeepers' Association.

Cambridgeshire Beekeepers' Association contact: Bob Lemon 01223 860144

Cambridge Allotments Network would like to express their gratitude to Cambridgeshire Beekeepers' Association for  preparing this document on our behalf.

Latest update 03/01/01