BBKA Forum

British Beekeepers Association Official Forum 

  • Advice for land owners/managing agents who put hives on commercial sites

  • Environmental issues and concerns that affect beekeeping.
Environmental issues and concerns that affect beekeeping.
 #2382  by Ant_D_S2
 18 Mar 2019, 09:27
Hi all, I work as an advisor to landlords/managing agents who are increasingly keen to place hives on commercial property - e.g. in spare meadow/ green areas on industrial parks, or on roofs of office buildings in London! They want environmental management points (when gaining ISO 14001 certificate) and to perhaps produce something for the benefit of the local community. Can you please direct me to a good source of basic general considerations for siting hives, and health and safety advice for users of land with bee hives? Obviously we would always use a competent bee keeper to set up and manage the hives, but site managers are asking me the basic things to think about when planning i.e. space needed, distance to keep public, signs required? That sort of stuff. Many thanks in advance.
 #2383  by AdamD
 18 Mar 2019, 10:43
One of my colleagues who does our H&S and Environment stuff went on a course and he was told that keeping bees on a work site ticks boxes for obtaining ISO14001 accreditation. However my view (from someone who keeps bees at work from time to time) is that just sticking some hives at the office should not be an automatic response. What would be better, in my opinion, is to create a habitat for bugs and such-like and then the environment in general would improve. So leaving scruffy places, planting native trees and hedges would be much better, and allow grass to grow dandilions and clover etc rather than cut it too regularly.
There have been reports that there are too many colonies of bees in some cities. This means that they would have to be fed and they would tend to 'crowd-out' any native pollinating insects that would otherwise feed on the food that the bees have taken. So too many bees would be detrimental to wildlife rather than benefit it.
However, if the location is good for bees then they could be sited. Vehicular access is really required - as hives and boxes of honey (if you're lucky) will need to be carried from hive to vehicle. And a weekly inspection will be required for several months of the year, so someone will trapse from car to hive in a bee suit with a smoker in his hand, and he might wander back with a bee or two on his bee suit. A beekeeping association should be able to advise on whether the location is good and members of the BBKA have liability insurance which might be useful to have. It would be worth having the beekeeper in control of any hives qualified to at least to BBKA Basic level plus, say 3 years experience.
And if I keep anything more that a small colony at work, I get complaints about little orangy-brown spots on peoples cars!

I hope this helps.
 #2385  by Patrick
 18 Mar 2019, 14:28
Great advice from Adam, particularly around relatively “passive” alternatives such planting native shrubs and letting some areas “go”.

I don’t know how much you already know about bees so apologies if this is all obvious. A lot of concern re pollinators has led to a certain belief that if you are not worried about a honey crop then to help bees all you need to do is provide a suitable box and leave them to it. This is beguilingly simple but there can be possibly unexpected complications . Swarms will try to issue creating what for some folk is a terrifying cloud of “killer bees” and then clustering up in apparently random places. They can also become quite defensive for various reasons and may sting passers by for little reason especially if they cross a flight line from the entrance. Also in populous or rural settings it is not unknown for hives to attract the attention of vandals or simply mischievous youths, who will tip over or play dare with hives. The hives may become unwelcome neighbours over time due to an unanticipated problem arising - where could they be removed to?

So siting hives is a thoroughly worthwhile process but when in close proximity to people it is always worth thinking about whether if the unexpected happens there are alternatives. For all the given reasons, I would think that finding a beekeeper who thinks the site suitable for them and is prepared to manage them responsibly is every bit as important as simply finding a spot to put hives on.

Well done to you for seeking the advice rather than just paying lip service and suggesting bunging a few boxes of bees just to gain points in the planning process.
 #2399  by Chrisbarlow
 19 Mar 2019, 19:50
things to consider

Insurance either BBKA insurance policy or bee farmers association policy

Vehicle access

Some sort of risk assessment to be provided by the beekeeper (with possibly assistance from yourself) considering things like:

Will they be using a smoker or water, I have some colonies on top of an 8 story hotel and I never take a smoker up there and have that in the risk assessment

A contact number in case of emergencies, If there is a problem, how quick would it take the beekeeper to move the bees, I agreed to 48hours as a minimum notification for removal of colonies for instance.

An agreement in place on process for the beekeeping accessing the site, for instance I always go to a desk and get a set of keys and effectively book in to the hotel (as any one else would do working on sitee) and because its a hotel, I can go any time I wish.

The hotel has my number in case there is a fire and I am up there, so I have agreed to always have my phone on me, when I am up there.

I have agreed a maximum amount of hives on site at any one time including during swarming season

Are you going to have signage up around the hive advising people there are honey bees at work

If there are people near by , is there a fence going around the apiary to make sure the bees go up and over peoples head.

Consider having a process in place if the bees swarm, some thing the beekeeper should avoid at all costs but we are only human and we are dealing with live stock, so this isnt impossible or another angle would be, what to do if a swarm turns up that isnt from the bees that are sighted there which is a lot more likely. At my site a couple of years ago a chap went in 3 or 4 times over a week complaining about the bees swarming. I went over each time to check and they hadnt but he was adamant they had, upon further questioning, he had seen bees about 1/2mile further out of the city and because he new of my bees at the hotel, he assumed they were mine. the hotel were great I must admit.

Are you thinking about wanting to sell hive products and come to a fair agreement on price for products, considering that the beekeeping is helping your client reach ISO14001 and its just good PR full stop, make sure you do pay a fair price for produce

Would you consider paying the beekeeping to keep the hives on site.

Keeping hives at commerical premises is a great thing to do, but there are lots of things to consider.

there will be other stuff and if I think of them, I will post again.