HM the Queen Bee; Grant Giveaway Could Save Britain's Declining Population of Honey Bees

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), June 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

HM the Queen Bee; Grant Giveaway Could Save Britain's Declining Population of Honey Bees


Byline: Valerie Elliott

TO millions of her subjects she is the ultimate Queen Bee.

Now Her Majesty is turning her attention to the plight of Britain's honey bees and funding grants from PS500 to PS1,000 to encourage people to set up beehives on Duchy of Lancaster land.

One condition for the grants is learning to distinguish queen bees from workers.

The Queen is apparently concerned by the rapid decline in Britain's bee colonies linked to the varroa mite, which has also devastated honey bees in the United States and mainland Europe. Other causes include poor weather, pesticides and pollution. Without pollination by bees, Britain's crops will suffer.

Beekeeping enthusiasts include TV celebrities Kate Humble and Bill Turnbull, but many are put off by the cost.

So the Duchy, which provides a personal income to the Sovereign, has launched the start-up grants for tenant farmers or anyone else willing to keep hives on its 46,000 acres in Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.

The cash will be used for people to attend a training course, which costs about PS60 for six three-hour sessions; to purchase a hive, which varies from PS250 to PS350; to buy a swarm of bees for about PS150, and a protective suit with veiled helmet and gloves at PS70 to PS120. Recipients will also have to join a local beekeepers' association which costs about PS30 a year.

There is no limited cash pot for the grants, and each application will be decided on merit.

Nathan Thompson, the Duchy's chief executive, said: 'As a responsible landlord, the Duchy is acutely aware of the need to protect the natural environment and supporting the bee population is an intrinsic part of that.' Gill Maclean, spokesman for the British Beekeepers' Association, which has 24,000 members, said: 'This is a wonderful gesture to encourage new beekeepers and it is an ideal time to start. But people should have a look at a hive and see what's expected before making the commitment. …

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