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Plan Bee for urban bees and the community

Plan Bee for urban bees and the community

by Rachel Phipps Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Food blogger Rachel Phipps braves an up close and personal encounter with urban bees in Glasgow to discover how beehive company Plan Bee, and their resident swarms, have been helping the local community and environment.

Rachel is a food writer, splitting time between the Kentish and French countrysides.

On a sunny Sunday morning in a residential suburb of Glasgow we’re kitting up in bee suits. Haggs Castle, one of many residences North of the border that once played host to Mary, Queen of Scots, is now a private home, to both the family who live there and the bee colony who live at the bottom of the garden.

Plan Bee are a Scottish eco-friendly and sustainable beehive company. Essentially, if you fancy having some bees they’ll provide you with however many hives you want, and they’ll even manage the hives and look after the bees for you. In return, you’ll be secure in the knowledge that you’re making an instant and positive impact on your local environment, and you’ll get twenty-four jars of honey for each hive you adopt every year.

As well as catering to individuals, a lot of Plan Bee’s clients are big companies and organisations, which is where their work starts to get a bit more interesting. Their client list boasts a mixture of big names such as Highland Spring, Balfour Beatty and Harley-Davidson, and a good mixture of Scottish restaurants, spas and small businesses.

Learning about the company, it was a couple of Plan Bee’s smaller clients that stood out to me, highlighting that they are about more than just keeping bees and producing honey products. For example, Clyde Dental Group keep hives not only because they are concerned about their carbon footprint and want to contribute to their local ecosystem, but as a practical tool. When children arrive at the practice for dental surgery they are brought to see the bees; the bees provide both a welcome distraction and help engage them in the project at the same time. The practice also donates the proceeds from the sale of their honey to benefit local charities.

James Chapman, butchers in Wishaw, have installed four hives with the help of Plan Bee, again concerned about their environmental credentials, but also because they are interested in the traceability of their product; they want to be able to sell truly local honey in their shop from hives that are just next door.

Additionally to their corporate and business clients, Plan Bee also have partnerships with several local schools in Scotland, where students are both encouraged to get involved in the design of the hive, and to learn about the bees and what they can do for the environment in the process.

After making sure all of our suits were secure (did you know that it is still possible to get stung through a bee suit? I’m glad I did not know this on the outset, as I may not have been as fearless in handling the bees if I had known I was the one who was going to get stung!) we headed over to the two polystyrene hives the residents of Haggs Castle keep for their private use; the man of the house also has a corporate relationship with the company.

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Rachel braves the bees
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The hives at Haggs Castle

Bees are actually quite friendly creatures. They don’t actually look that scary as they come flying out of the hive towards you once the lid is lifted. Braver souls such as myself even picked up whole slabs of honeycomb, with the worker bees clinging to the structure provided for them on which to start building their honeycomb. It is amazing to get up close to the bees; in various places, you can see how they instinctively start building the hexagonal shapes. You can see where they start to fill these up with honey, and probably the most fascinating, you can see where bees are buried within cells under a thin layer of wax, and burrow their way out into the sunlight as part of their birth. It is not until you get up close you really come to appreciate these little flying friends, and I promise that honey will taste all that better for the experience, if you ever get the opportunity.

Environmental, business and community implications aside, it also helps that Plan Bee’s honey that they create for retail is delicious. Their Heather Honey and their Blossom Honey recently received gold stars at this year’s Great Taste Awards, and I can personally attest to the fact that their Blossom Honey makes for a fantastic hot honey and lemon if you’re feeling a bit under the weather. Just add a teaspoon to the bottom of your mug with a small lemon wedge (squeeze it then throw the wedge in after the juice), topped up with boiling water. Additionally, I’d recommend their Truffle Honey whenever you’re looking to indulge.

 
 

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