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    North Derbyshire Radio

Local News

North Derbyshire Bee colony moved

todayAugust 17, 2022 14

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A Derbyshire colony of bees which has been lovingly tended for more than 100 years has had to be moved several miles after a new housing development caused them to become aggressive.

The “Bartlett Bees” have been kept in three hives in the garden of an idyllic cottage garden off Green Lane in Tansley – close to Matlock – for 40 years, but the family has been tending the colony since the 1800s, with five generations of beekeepers.

However, the bees becoming aggressive due to the loss of surrounding habitat has seen the family move the colony just over three miles away to fields near Lea.

Sallie Bartlett, 56, a retired teacher from Matlock, has been at the helm of the colony for 16 years and hopes to eventually pass down the crown to her 20-year-old son.

The Bartlett Bees produce around 100 jars of honey a year and the family are keen to stress the wider positive impact of the bees on the environment, such as through pollination, aiding the growth of flowers, vegetables and fruit and biodiversity generally.

Such is the connection between the Bartlett family and their honey bees, they sent a jar of honey out to Sallie’s grandfather, Stanley, when he was bunkered down in the trenches in France in 1917 during the First World War.

Stanley wrote a letter to his family, then living in Lea, three miles from Tansley: “…nearly finished the honey too…please don’t bother about me as I am quite alright.”

His son David, Sallie’s father, oversaw the transition of the bees to Green Lane in Tansley, the colony’s home for 40 years.

Sallie told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that when her father died 16 years ago, the bees were very much viewed to her as the “crown jewels” which must be maintained and protected at all costs.

The colony has called the site home for longer than most residents and have done so in perfect harmony.

However, the approved development of land adjacent to the Green Lane garden, a 26-home scheme led by William Davis Ltd, stemming off Whitelea Lane, has led to a change in their behaviour, Sallie says.

The Green Lane cottage is still occupied by Sallie’s mother, Ruth, aged 79, a retired telephone exchange operator and John Smedley receptionist.

Sallie and Ruth explained that they were made aware of a post on social media detailing how someone had been stung by one of the bees and calling for the hives to be removed.

Comments on this post were said to have become increasingly aggressive, with one person allegedly saying that someone ought to “pour petrol” on the bee hives.

Sallie told the LDRS: “They (the bees) got quite aggressive this year and there was eventually a tirade of comments on social media, it was horrendous.

“We think it is because the bees have become agitated because their foraging land has been destroyed and built on. They have looked to go somewhere else and went onto the clover on the playing field, people haven’t seen them while they are walking and may have stepped on them.”

She said the parish council erected signs to warn of the new bee habits and the local football team is said to have stopped using the field temporarily.

Sallie said: “Somebody said they (the bee hives) want petrol thrown on them. One person said the owners need to do something before someone has an anaphylactic shock (allergic reaction to bee stings).

“It was horrible, we didn’t get any sleep because we were worrying about someone pouring petrol on them and we wouldn’t be able to cope with it if someone did have an allergic reaction, or if someone’s children got stung.”

Ruth said: “They were some people who were sorry to see them (the bees) go. One woman said she couldn’t go down her garden to pick her strawberries, well the bees would have helped them grow.”

Sallie said: “I wouldn’t want to put my family or the bees through it again.”
She said she devised a plan to move them promptly to a new site, just over three miles away, on a temporary basis until a permanent new plot can be found.

Sallie explained that bees must be moved at least three miles to ensure they change their foraging area, or they try to return back to their original location.

Ruth said: “A lot of people move here from cities or towns and they just don’t understand how to live with the bees.”

Sallie said: “It is happening all over the country, it is all the urbanisation. We never knew the development would impact the bees like this, we need to be considering the wider impact, the council and councillors and developers need to be thinking about that.

She said she has joined the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust as a volunteer to help raise awareness about the plight of bees and the benefits they provide, and is keen to provide advice to people looking to get into beekeeping.

Sallie said: “It has been really sad for us but it will be all about educating people going forward. It does worry you what is going to happen with them in the future.”

The largest threat to bees is said to be the loss of their natural habitat, through development and farming, as Sallie remarks: “We can’t make honey from concrete.”

She provided some facts about bees, including that one bee will visit two million flowers, they travel more than 55,000 miles during their lifespan – the equivalent to travelling around the equator twice.

One bee, she says, makes less than a quarter of a teaspoon of honey, and will live for around six weeks in the summer.

She said bees cluster in the winter and vibrate their muscles to keep the queen warm and safe – the hive itself is usually around 35C, with bees fanning their wings to maintain the temperature.

Sallie said male bees – drones – are considered lazy and are actively starved of food in the winter by the worker bees to avoid having too many mouths to feed.

She says she is happy to provide advice on beekeeping via sallieannetyson@yahoo.co.uk.

One of the Bartlett Bees
Sallie Bartlett at the new site near Lea
The Derbyshire Honey produced by the Bartletts for more than 100 years

Written by: NDR NEWS

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