Scilly’s Happy Bees Need More Attention Says Expert

Scilly’s beekeepers need to spend more time looking after their colonies and that investment could pay off with increased honey production or bees for exporting to replenish mainland hives.

That’s the opinion of Colin Rees, the president of the Cornwall Beekeeping Association.

He’s been visiting beekeepers on St Mary’s and St Martin’s this weekend to investigate a problem with queen rearing, as part of an AONB-funded project.

From Radio Scilly

Colin Rees talks about Scilly’s bees

Scilly’s bees haven’t been affected by the varroa mite and there have been suggestions that bees here could restock mainland hives.

Colin says he doesn’t think that will happen soon because too many people are fitting in beekeeping around other work and can’t devote time to it.

But it is possible. He said more people have expressed an interest in beekeeping and with the right education process in place, he thinks this could be a sustainable industry for the islands in the medium to long term.

Colin said the poor breeding of bees here was thought to be due to the weather and limited genetic stock.

He says the wind here can certainly be a problem as the queens find it difficult to mate under those conditions. If the queens cannot mate the colony will die.

Scilly’s varied plants and flowers should give us a beekeeping advantage over the East coast of England, where often a single crop is intensively farmed.

The AONB have been encouraging people to buy local honey to avoid importing diseases to the islands, but it’s not easy to find local honey for sale.

Colin says it’s not due to food or environmental health regulations but possibly just a lack of production and he thinks there are simple things that could be done to enable colonies to produce more honey.

But there was one thing that Colin says is striking about our bees. He says the bees here are unusually calm and happy.

There was no aggression and stinging while he was handling the colonies during the weekend and he didn’t need to ‘smoke’ the hive in the way he would on the mainland.

Colin thinks this could partly be due to the lack of varroa here, which weakens the bees and makes them stressed and he added he’d love to have our bees back at home.