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If you’ve noticed a buzz about The Centre over the past year, it might just be from some very busy bees! (And we don’t just mean our staff!)

Last summer The Centre hosted a brilliant free garden festival which kept visitors of all ages entertained throughout the school holidays. Since then, The Centre’s roof top has been home to two full-size beehives with over 20,000 bees living inside, as well as a host of wild plants to help them on their way when they’re looking for nectar.

During the festival, down on the malls of The Centre, not only did visitors have the chance to observe the inner workings of a glass beehive but they had the opportunity to sponsor a bee to raise funds for bee conservation. As an added bonus The Centre also donated a bee garden, packed with pollinator plants to a local primary school to help children understand just how important bees are to the ecosystem.

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At the moment UK honeybees are facing a variety of threats including the use of pesticides, pests and diseases, extreme weather, habitat loss and competition from invasive species.

One third of the UK’s food is pollinated by bees – they’re like ecological superheroes – so hearing that they’re in decline is a real cause for concern. It is therefore vital that everyone does as much as possible to support the bee population in their area.

The Centre is at the heart of the local community and is passionate about its commitment to sustainability and the environment so when the opportunity arose to give the bees a home, everyone was buzzing!

Within days of the hives being installed, the bees were already hard at work pollinating trees, plants, flowers, fruit and vegetables around The Centre. Most bees will only travel within a one mile radius of the hive to look for food, but some intrepid explorers will fly up to five whole miles - this could mean they go all the way to Kirknewton, Broxburn or West Calder!

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Fun Facts about The Centre’s bees:

  • Bees make honey by taking nectar (a sweet, sticky substance exuded by plants) and mixing it with enzymes from glands in their mouths. They store this mix in a hexagonal wax honey comb until the water content in it has been reduced to around 17%. Once this has happened the bees cap the cell with a thin layer of wax which seals it until the bees need it.
  • Each hive will provide 24 jars of honey every year, but don’t worry - a strong bee colony has the capacity to produce two to three times more honey than it ever needs.
  • In any hive there are three types of honey bee: a single queen, thousands of female worker bees and, in the summer, hundreds of male drones.
  • Honey bees use a waggle dance to communicate with each other – this is a figure-of-eight shaped dance that allows successful foragers to pass on information about the location of flowers to other members of the colony.
  • There is only one kind of honey bee in Europe and at first glance it looks more like a wasp than a fat bumblebee – don’t mix them up!

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How can you help?

The easiest way to help support your local bee population is to let your garden grow a little wild! As many hedgerows and verges have disappeared, the wild part of your garden can be a little oasis. By cutting the grass less often and trying not to disturb insect nests and hibernation spots you’re providing vital food and habitat for honey bees, bumble bees, solitary bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

For passionate gardeners the answer is simple - grow more of the flowers, shrubs and trees that you love and try to avoid using pesticides. Why not create your very own bee garden? This will help the bees by adding to the shrinking inventory of flower-rich habitat in your area. Also, having access to greater food sources enables honey bees to be stronger in the face of disease.

When planning your garden, think about planting a variety of flowers that will provide bees with nectar and pollen all year round. Snowdrops are a wonderful way to make your garden welcoming to bees at a time when other plants are dormant.

A bee’s eyes are more sensitive to the blue end of the spectrum so purple plants like lavender will appear very bright to them, making them a great choice for your bee garden.

Plants with single, open flowers give bees easy access to pollen and nectar, so whether you’re planting up a large border or a simple window box, make sure you add in a few bee favourites such as dahlias and zinnias.

Bees are vital to the health of our ecosystem so why not join The Centre in giving them a helping hand.