19 Sep 2009

Stroud: the world's first bee Guardian town?

Here's an update re bees - we are still working towards 350 beehouses by 24th October - see original post here. in fact had a meeting yesterday with Jessie and Carlo to plan the next steps - more coming to this blog very soon on that.

There is more in this blog re other goings on re bees including a pic of the bee on the £1 note at the launch of the Stroud Pound (see pic left), the Lark Rise exhibition at the Museum which has a beautiful pic re bees (next pic down), the artist featured in the SNJ now working on bees, the bee workshop in South Cerney.....but the big news is that Stroud could become world's first 'bee guardian' town.

I've been discussing the idea of 'bee guardian' towns with the Global Bee Project and what criteria it might need....Here is some of how the SNJ reported it:
The Global Bee Project in Stroud is working with the town council to draw up practices which could be followed by any local authority worldwide to support the insects and achieve the special status. Town mayor Andy Read, whose garden is already dedicated to bees, said: "I think it would be a major coup for Stroud to be the first bee guardian town. We have got the opportunity with the land we own or manage to really show how a difference can be made just by very subtle changes."

The Global Bee Project was established as a not-for-profit company in March to save the UK’s 256 bee species and more than 20,000 types globally. In the UK, numbers of the insect have fallen by up to 15 per cent over the last two years due to a number of suspected factors, including climate change, habitat loss and disease. The decline is of huge concern because bees not only maintain wildlife but also pollinate plants which produce a third of our food.

Under the draft criteria for a bee guardian town, local authorities must not to use pesticides or herbicides on their land. Councils must put in bee-friendly plants, ideally native species, wildflowers and perennials, to provide food for bees all year. They must provide nesting sites for a range of species by practices such as installing bee boxes and bee houses or leaving undisturbed areas. Finally they must raise awareness of local bee species by erecting display boards.

Jessie Jowers, a director of the project, said: "As bees are surviving in towns and villages and cities, it makes sense to approach the people who manage the land and see what they can do. When Stroud becomes the first bee guardian town, we will be ready to do the same thing in Gloucester, Cirencester or another town."

Project leaders will tour public spaces in Stroud during September to establish what is already being done to help bees and suggest possible improvements. They will then refine the criteria and decide whether to grant the bee guardian status. The Global Bee Project has been chosen as one of only four organisations to take part in a prestigious research exhibition to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society. Leaders of the scheme will receive £3,500 from the independent science academy to work with students on a study of bee houses and showcase the results in London next year. Jessie Jowers, a director at the project, said: "It is absolutely fantastic. One of the big aims on the project is raising awareness of the importance of bees and we feel the future of the project will be creating educational workshops for schools."

The study, which will last about 18 months from September, will involve about 20 to 24 students at Stroud High School and Downfield Sixth Form. Teams of students will build different types of bee houses and place them in a range of situations to discover which are the best at attracting local bee species. Dr Adam Hart, head of the bioscience department at the University of Gloucestershire, will analyse the findings with the ultimate aim of identifying a design that could be sold commercially. The exhibition will take place at the Southbank Centre between June 26 and July 4.

All exciting stuff - I did post a blog on how to make beehouses here - that blog also has links to the houses I made - well I'm now getting ready for a session with Elfin Woodcraft Folk (6 to 9 year olds) - collecting cow Parsley dried and old bamboo canes - this will then be cut and made into bundles for bees and other insects - the pic here is of one at Helen and Peter Nightingale's house - mine will also have a wooden roof as a superior home to keep it more dry but suspect it is not so important!! Pics coming soon!

Bee artist!

Well this article in Stroud Life on the side (can't get it up the right way for some reason!!!) is about the bee painter Wendy Milner who is working on a whole series of bee paintings locally to support the Stroud-based Global Bee Project. I see she has an exhibition with others in the Museum in the Park in November so lets hope we can see some bees then!!

Bee workshops and other stuff!

Anyway the Global Bee Project have sent three pictures of their last workshop organized at the Cotswold Water Park in partnership between Cotswold Water Park, BBC and The Global Bee Project - I have permission to use them here - not only learning to make beehouses but also learning to 'dance' like a bee! There are also plans for some beehouse-making workshops in Stroud before 24th Oct - details from their shop near the Sub Rooms in Stroud.

Anyhow as you can see the Global Bee Project has been getting lots of coverage in the press - and the project is expanding - now links to Toronto - see here. May it continue to grow!!

I was also interested to see Friends of the Bees at the Natural Beekeeping Network - which should perhaps be called Biodynamic Beekeeping as they are based on the Steiner principles.


Dorothea said...

Thanks for publicising this, Philip, it all sounds brilliant. I visited the Global Bee Project website and was reassured to find that they want to help all bees, not just the domesticated hive bee Apis mellifera, which is the one we mostly hear about in relation to CCD.

Most of the bees that pollinate around where I live, in the gardens and allotments, seem to be bumble bees or solitary bees, and many of these wild species of bees are under threat, or have even become extinct already, even here in Britain, as Buglife have been warning us.

Have you seen their research report into neonicotinoid insecticides as a likely contributory factor to Colony Collapse Disorder? DEFRA are trying to deny it, of course.

This Bee Guardian idea sounds like a fun idea that will inspire lots of people to get involved and learn more about how wonderful and how valuable bees are.

Philip Booth said...

Thanks for comment - hadn't seen report - great stuff - as you will know Soil Assoc has petition:

Yes this Project is v much about all bees - the honeybee gets all the limelight but there are some 250 different native variaties - and many pollinate more than the honeybee so it is vital we look after them as well - indeed some would argue that we need to significantly improve the way we look after honeybees - too many amateurs with too little knowledge that can lead to poor health of hives and spreading disease.

There are moves to more natural beekeeping and less exploitative beekeeping....

Dorothea said...

Yes, along with many other conservationists, I'm more concerned about our wonderful wild species than A. mellif.