Co-operative comes up with sweet deals for more urban honeybees

Urban beekeeping could be a "vital tool" in reversing declines in honeybees, the Co-operative group claimed as it rolled out a scheme to encourage more hives in towns and cities.

Last year the Co-operative, which has 600 hives on farmland, piloted a scheme to train would-be beekeepers on allotments in Manchester.

Now the company is rolling out the idea to other areas in Manchester, London and Inverness, as part of its Plan Bee programme to help reverse falling numbers of the insects.

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The scheme, in which people get to go on a free two-day course, are provided with free kit, bees and an easy-to-use plastic “beehaus” hive, is being run with the aim of getting 300 new beekeepers in city centres.

An extra 225,000 for Plan Bee will help fund the beekeeping scheme for city gardens and allotments, along with financing more research into the causes of bee declines.

It brings the total funding by the Co-operative for the programme, launched in January 2009, to 475,000 – for research, raising awareness of the honeybee’s plight and to encourage people to plant bee-friendly wildflowers.

Research centres on pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which the Co-operative has banned from its farms. The company will also be giving away hundreds of thousands more packets of wildflower seeds.