"I would just like to put on record that my husband and I are absolutely delighted with the education that our daughter has received at Bolton School."

Parent, Beech House - Sixth Form

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Honeybee Colony Arrives

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Around 20,000 bees arrived at their new home outside the Boys' Division greenhouse today. Despite worries that the weather would mean postponing, the warm and sunny conditions were perfect. Under the careful and experienced watch of apiarist Keith Hemming, the bees were transferred from their travelling container to the brand new hive, which was built last term by the boys in Beekeeping Club.

Populating the hive was a relaxed event throughout, with Keith providing expert commentary on the process and on bees more generally. The boys could share their impressive store of existing beekeeping knowledge and also ask a variety of questions.

The bees were very calm as Keith released them from their container and they began to fly in widening spirals. This is a vital part of the moving process, as they need to map out their new surroundings. A gentle buzz could be heard as five populated honeycombs were transferred across to the hive, and more and more bees took flight. The boys even managed to spot the queen bee, marked with a red spot on her back and noticeably longer and larger than the others. The colony was relaxed enough that the boys could get a good look at the queen and the uses of different areas of the honeycomb before Keith placed it into the hive!

The school’s bee colony will no doubt contribute to much-needed conservation efforts for the European Honeybee. Beyond conservation, there are plans to learn from the bees in a variety of ways, as well as offering the boys chances to develop new skills. Some have already chosen to incorporate their involvement with the school hive into their Duke of Edinburgh awards!

There are even hopes to ultimately sell jars of Bolton School honey – but first the focus is on building the colony to full strength. A group of boys will perform weekly monitoring, with staff support, and will care for the hive. With careful maintenance and consolidation, the summer months should see the school’s bee population swell to around 50,000. The Beekeeping Club will then look towards establishing a second hive. There is still much to learn and to do, but this was a big first step forward. It also represents a turning point in revitalising the long-neglected Boys’ Division greenhouse.

The Beekeeping Club has come on a long journey to reach this point. Initial discussions were held in the autumn of 2012, following a simple enquiry from Henry Mitson which got the ball rolling. Now, with the help of Mr Tillotson and Mr McMinn, Keith’s assistance in establishing the hive and imparting his knowledge, and the support of the Parents’ Association in this new venture, the Beekeeping Club finally has a buzzing hive of its own!

Everyone involved with the project is incredibly grateful to everyone involved for their invaluable help in establishing the school’s bee colony.

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Aspiring apiarists

Aspiring apiarists

Keith checks a comb before placing it into the hive

Keith checks a comb before placing it into the hive

The boys get a closer look at the queen bee

The boys get a closer look at the queen bee