Honeybees & farming: having hives on your land
Most beekeepers don’t have land of their own and they keep their bees on landowners or farmer’s land. The traditional agreement is a 1lb of honey per hive per year donated to the landowner. However, there are also pollination services which farmers will pay beekeepers to pollinate oil seed rape and other crops such as fruit and borage as they can increase their yield significantly.
There are some things you may wish to consider before agreeing to let someone put hives on your land. Honeybees not properly cared for can spread disease and become a liability to the public and landowner. You will be able to make your own judgements, but you may wish to ask the following questions of the beekeeper.
- What are their contact details?
- How many hives do they wish to place in the apiary? (2-15 max is usual)
- Where do they think would be safe, secure, accessible, and good for the bees? (Facing morning sun, not under trees or in a frost pocket)
- How much experience do they have keeping bees? (a year or two may not be enough)
- Are they a member of the Scottish Beekeepers Association or a local beekeepers association?
- Do they have public liability insurance (available by joining the SBA)
- Do they have any qualifications? (Most won’t but a basic beekeeping qualification from the SBA would indicate they at least know the basics)
- Have they told someone else where the bees will be?
- Will they be working with someone else?
- How good is their swarm control?
- Do they think there is enough forage for the bees?
The most important question would be are they registered on Beebase? This is important because if there is a disease outbreak within 3k they will be notified and if something happens to the beekeeper there is a record of where they are. It is also a useful resource of information for beekeepers and landowners on keeping bees. The website can be found here. https://www.nationalbeeunit.com/ You may also wish to draw up your own agreement.
There is a website called Bee Connected which aims to provide good communication between beekeepers and farmers. https://beeconnected.org.uk/ It can bring farmers and beekeepers together and keeps beekeepers notified when a neighbouring farmer is applying insecticides to their crops. Farmers enter the details of when and where you’re planning to spray an insecticide that may present a risk to bees (for instance on a flowering crop, or where the field has a conservation buffer strip), and notification will be sent to neighbouring beekeepers registered with the system. NRoSO members can now claim 2 CPD points per year for registering and using BeeConnected.
I would like to write more articles on beekeeping and farming so if there is anything you wish to know more about or need advice on, please do contact me. My email is below. You can find podcasts on beekeeping here: https://player.captivate.fm/show/bf56d68f-aebb-4876-abd2-82a2b61716a1/
Lorraine Johnston, SRUC Bee Advisor for Scotland, email@example.com
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