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Page last updated at 09:06 GMT, Tuesday, 18 May 2010 10:06 UK
Bee Part Of It: Meet the beekeeper
By Kim Schofield
Beekeeper at Longshaw Estate, Sheffield

Kim Schofield is looking after the BBC Radio Sheffield beehives at the Longshaw Estate near Sheffield
Kim Schofield is looking after the BBC Radio Sheffield beehives at the Longshaw Estate near Sheffield

The BBC is creating bee-friendly places all over the country, including new beehives on the outskirts of Sheffield. Kim Schofield is the beekeeper looking after the two BBC Radio Sheffield hives at the Longshaw Estate. He tells us more.

"Bees are the world's most important pollinating insects and are worth about £200m a year to British agriculture so it's important that we look after them.

"A combination of factors has caused a dramatic decline in their numbers - a loss of wildflower habitats, the use of pesticides, and bee disease.

"Recent bad summers have also caused enormous damage to honeybees, with a third of colonies lost in 2008.

"In around 2000, a wild bee colony took up residence in the Longshaw Lodge tower but after a couple of years these disappeared. The two new beehives on the Longshaw Estate will be the first proper beehives on the site.

"At the beginning of the bee season (January and February) depending on the foraging source there will be around 10,000 bees. By the height of the season (June and July) we expect to have about 60,000 to 70,000 bees. Again, it's all dependent on the foraging [food) sources."

Longshaw Estate

Kim is also a glass artist but he became a beekeeper in 2009 because of his fascination with the insects:

"I went on a 10-week course with Chesterfield & District Beekeeping Association to become a beekeeper. Now myself and six others in the Grindleford Allotment Beekeepers have been looking after three national hives since June 2009.

"The Longshaw Estate is a 2000 acre National Trust site. It is mostly grazing land with plenty of deciduous trees and conifers. At the upper part of the estate is White Edge Moor, over 1000 feet above sea level. At the lower part is Padley Gorge, an ancient oak woodland in the lower part of the estate.

Bumblebee collecting pollen from a sunflower

"An abundance of trees is important because of the nectar pollen and honeydew. Then the bees pollinate the flowers they visit."

It might take a year for the bees to establish themselves in the new hives, but Kim says BBC Radio Sheffield will have yummy honey from the beehives before too long:

"At the end of one good year, one hive can produce more than 70 lb of honey. The source of nectar, pollen, plants and trees will affect how much honey the bees make, and this is why one of the main aims of Bee Part Of It is to plant more wildflowers to make bee-friendly places.

"Honeybees are also known to perform a 'waggle dance.' When foraging bees return to the hive, they waggle their bodies in a complex dance first deciphered by biologists more than 40 years ago. The angle and direction of the forager bees' waggle dance conveys how far and in what direction other more naive bees need to fly to reach flowers that will provide plentiful sources of food.

Getting stung

Beekeeping demonstration
Try a beekeeping taster session during Bee Part Of It!

"All beekeepers get stung at some point, but people's reactions to bee stings vary from mild irritation to severe itching and swelling. Very rarely, some people suffer from anaphylactic shock and the emergency services have to be called.

"Personally, I don't mind being stung. I am always careful to wear the proper clothing but if there is a vulnerable point, the bees will find it.

"Anyone is free to visit the Longshaw Estate although the beehives will be out of public view in a fenced-off area where there is a good flight path away from public footpaths. This is partly for public safety but also because of recent thefts of honeybees and hives around the UK. Local police are encouraging us to mark our equipment with SmartWater which helps identify it if it gets stolen."

Find out more about how you can get involved in Bee Part Of It .

You can also read about what happened when a colony of bees took up residence in the BBC Radio Sheffield car park in summer 2009.

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