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Can Bees and Industry Co-Exist?

29 June 2016

As we (somewhat slowly) progress into summer, we are starting to see more and more signs of the new season.  One of the things we hear about a lot, and sometimes see, are bees.  But if you have bees on your site, should you leave them be or remove them?  We’ll talk about this and ways to encourage bees onto your site.

In recent times, bees have received a lot of press regarding their endangered status and how important they are.  Bees are pollinating insects, which mean they help plants to reproduce and produce fruits and seeds.  This is particularly important for supporting biodiversity but also for our own food production.  Pollinators are very valuable and well managed industrial sites can make a valuable contribution to bee conservation.

On many industrial sites, there may be green spaces that can attract wildlife and you can manage your green areas to attract pollinating insects like bees.  Different insects have different habitat needs, but all pollinating insects need nectar and many also need pollen.  Bees feed their larvae on pollen and nectar and so need both.  As well as a food source, they also need suitable habitat to complete their lifecycle, including somewhere to nest.  Different bees need different habitats but it can include underground, in dense vegetation on the surface or in holes in logs, plant stems and walls.  Key habitat includes wildflowers and spring-flowering shrubs, long grass areas and bare ground.  In other words, bees can thrive in a variety of different habitats and you may be surprised about where a nest pops up.

Your site may have vegetated areas that need to be managed and these areas are usually mowed for convenience.  To encourage bees and other wildlife, you may be able to look into limiting or stopping mowing in these areas and planting bee friendly seeds.  You will also need to be mindful of the way you use chemicals, particularly pesticides and consider contamination of non-target species, such as bees.

Despite some information, bees aren’t actually legally protected, which means, if you have them on your site and want to get rid of them, you can.  However, there are many benefits of bees and they are endangered so, if you can, you should try not to eradicate them.  The best thing to do is leave them alone.  Their colonies usually decline naturally by late July, if not sooner so, chances are once you start to notice them, they will be slowing down already.  After the summer, they will not necessarily return to the same nesting site the following year.

If you find a nest that is in an inconvenient location, possibly causing a danger to your staff or operations, you can consider relocation.  This best thing to do in this case is to contact a local beekeeper or pest controller to relocate the nest.  If this is not possible, and the nest is dangerous, you can consider eradication.  If you do decide to go this route, make sure you use trained professionals who have technical knowledge as different bees require different removal techniques.

Bees are very important for us; it is estimated that around a third of the food we eat is pollination dependent (The British Beekeepers Association).  Despite common belief, industrial sites can provide valuable habitat for conserving bees and other wildlife often with little or no management required.  Is your site bee friendly?  Have you got any bees on your site now?


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