An Eco Tree Hive has recently been installed at the Roseland Academy, Tregony, in a tree on the edge of the playing field.
The idea of the Tree Hive is to provide a natural habitat for a colony of honey bees. Bees have evolved in tree cavities over millions of years (1), but as with many species, their natural habitats (2) have diminished drastically with the impact that humans have had on the planet.
Many of you will associated honey bees living in a conventional 'bee hive'. These are often inferior habitats that have evolved and been designed by humans for our own convenience, with the aim of harvesting honey and other hive products.
Over time, this has resulted in bees being exploited, especially by commercial beekeepers, to optimise honey production. This often involves practices like transporting bees by the lorry load (3) to pollinate crops, introducing imported queens, use of miticides and antibiotics to combat the resulting diseases, and taking all of the nutritious honey that the bees have worked so hard to process for their survival and replacing it with inferior sugar syrup solutions. These are some of the many factors that have contributed to the demise of the honey bee population.
The Tree Hive is designed to replicate similar living conditions too that of a tree cavity, in size, shape and insulation properties. Cedar and cork are the main materials used. The cork is a natural product that is sustainable grown and harvested from the cork tree every nine years. It has 4 times the insulation properties of most timbers and is also much lighter. A Tree Hive weighs just over 20kg, making it practical to position. A piece of old comb is put in the top of the cavity (4) to help attract a swarm, as well as the internal walls which rubbed with a mix of wax and propolis.
The Tree hive will hopefully be populated of its own accord, by a swarm of bees (5). Plan B would be to transfer in, a locally caught swarm. The main swarm season is between the end of April to early July. Once occupied the bees will be left to their own devices (6). No honey will be extracted. They will be left to exist as they do in the wild and at the same time benefit the local bee population and surrounding countryside.
A mention must go to the Roseland Bee Group who have offered support in this project. Once the lockdown restrictions are lifted, we hope to hold a 'study group' tour of the RBG apiary which is located at The Lost Gardens of Heligan Gardens. Here you will hopefully be able to get some hands on experience with some bees.
Many thanks to the Roseland Academy for your interest in protecting our wildlife and helping re wild our honey bee population.