Bungay Bee project is the first of its kind

A PIONEERING beekeeping project in Bungay is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK and has influenced a major campaign to boost honey bee numbers in London.

Bungay Community Bees was founded by two local women last year with the aim of managing hives in as sustainable a manner as possible, and the scheme has grown from strength to strength.

The project was formed within the Sustainable Bungay initiative and founded by Elinor McDowall and Gemma Parker.

It is run as a Community Supported Apiculture (CSA) scheme where members own “shares” in the bee hives and harvest, taking part in the beekeeping year. It is believed to be the first scheme of its kind in the UK and now has between about 30 and 40 members.

Members can choose to participate as much or as little as they wish, and the group is keen to educate and raise awareness of bees.

The scheme has received inquiries from interested people around the world and Miss McDowall was invited to speak at a bee summit in London organised by the Capital Bee campaign, a project to boost community bee keeping in response to the dangerous decline in bee populations.

Bungay Community Bees says its model has been a big influence on the campaign, which is supported by London mayor Boris Johnson.

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Miss McDowall said the problems facing bees continue to cause concern. “There is definitely an increase in colony losses and there are many theories as to why that is happening,” she said, adding that possible factors included stressful management, pesticide use, a lack of suitable environment and disease.

The group has received much support from the Waveney Beekeepers Group, which has trained four members of the group in bee-keeping and is currently training another two.

The group has established apiaries at Flixton and Barsham and a third is planned at Denton.

Members hope to have eight hives by the end of the year.

Miss McDowall said that Mike Southern had recently made two top-bar hives, which are a more sustainable way of keeping bees.

The group has just been awarded about �500 from the Adnams Charity to buy honey extraction equipment and jars.

A new sub-group has recently formed to encourage people to grow bee-friendly plants and the group is planning to work with youngsters at Bungay Primary School.

There are also plans for a Bee Day in July, involving workshops and bee spotting activities.

Miss McDowall, Miss Parker and other members of Bungay Community Bees will be talking about the plight of the honey bee and their plans for 2011 and beyond at Sustainable Bungay’s Green Drinks at the Green Dragon in Broad Street on Tuesday at 7.30pm