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College starts sustainability buzz with beehives

12/06/2018

A college in the South Wales Valleys is playing its part in saving the honey bee and helping to improve the environment after providing a home to thousands of native species at two of its campuses.

Coleg y Cymoedd has installed apiaries at its Ystrad Mynach and Nantgarw campuses as part of a wider sustainability program at the college designed to increase sustainability and minimise its impact on the environment.

The college has placed five bee hives across both campuses and incorporated a range of bee-friendly measures throughout its grounds in a bid to tackle declining numbers of honey-bees, which play a vital role in our ecosystem.

The initiative, which is now in its fourth year, aims to raise awareness among the student body and the public about the importance of urban bee-keeping in promoting sustainability.

Located on the campuses’ rooftops, the hives will provide learners at the college with an insight into the benefits of hosting bee-hives, as well as an understanding of how a bee colony is managed. Three lucky environmental learners at the college will also be fully selected to work with the bees over the summer, looking into apiary management, from hive assembly to honey harvesting.

As well as their educational and environmental benefits, the hives will also be used to produce honey and candle wax for the college, which will be sold to the public at local events and festivals. In just four months, more than 140 jars of specialist Coleg y Cymoedd honey have already been made.

Staff at the college were originally inspired to start their own beehives after speaking with a local bee keeper, who was already housing bees on the Ystrad Mynach apiary, and hearing about the perfect environment that the Nantgarw Campus rooftop green spaces offered for bee-keeping.

Nantgarw Campus Director, Karen James, said: “Bees play a critical role in our ecosystem, pollinating flowering plants, trees and crops, which in some cases, wouldn’t otherwise grow. However, due to modern agriculture and changes to the honey bees’ habitat, we are seeing a huge decline in their populations with honey bees now facing the threat of disappearing.

“We wanted to take action to protect these pollinators, promoting habitats, food sources, and safe places for them to nest at the college and raise awareness about their importance - installing our own bee hives was the logical next step for us. With plenty of green spaces and being located away from our learners, the college’s rooftops were an ideal site to host the bees.”

After seeking advice from Pollen8 Cymru and receiving a £5,000 grant to help set up the hives on its roof, the college welcomed its first colony of bees in 2010 at its Ystrad Mynach campus, with a further three colonies at the Nantgarw campus following in 2015.

The hives are not the only bee friendly additions to the college. To maximise its environmental objectives and make its space more liveable for bees and other pollinators, the college has planted bee friendly plants throughout its gardens and ensured bee-friendly weed killer is used at all times.

Although beekeeping is not part of the official curriculum, anyone interested in learning how to take care of bees is welcomed to contact the bee-keeping team to get involved.

College starts sustainability buzz with beehives

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