RAF

Busy Bees: RAF Shawbury's Fight To Save Insect Population

Nests have been set up at the RAF base and moved along military bases to help populate the bees.

RAF Shawbury is helping increase the bee population through a project which involves giving bees a home at the military base.

Shawbury has been behind the Praise Bee project since 2014 as part of the Station Environmental Policy.

More than 200 Red Mason bees have been collected from the base and have been used to help start other colonies, including those at RAF Brize Norton, RMA Sandhurst and BRNC Dartmouth.

A female Red Mason bee (Picture: gailhampshire/Flickr).
A female Red Mason bee (Picture: Gailhampshire/Flickr).

The Red Mason bee, which is a non-stinging, non-honey making variety, is known to be a ferocious pollinator and is 200 times more efficient than the traditional Honey Bee.

The Red Mason bee is also less susceptible to Varroa Mite, a major cause of Honey Bee colonies' collapses across Europe and North America.

The project first launched at RAF Shawbury after it was discovered that a large area of open grassland was not being used. This now functions as a micro nature reserve.

The station must also be careful with the use of chemicals around the site.

Squirrel training helicopter at RAF Shawbury
Squirrel training helicopter at RAF Shawbury (Picture: MOD).

Horticulturist and geneticist Viv Marsh has been leading the project at RAF Shawbury.

“RAF Shawbury is absolutely ideal for the bees," Mr Marsh explained.

“There’s the correct species of trees -  horse-chestnuts and greyelders and there’s large areas of ground as well as a large range of wildflowers.”

"My bees don't care about the helicopters flying around; they literally hear a helicopter come in and skedaddle into a bush behind me, as soon as the noise dies down, out they come again."

He said RAF Shawbury is a "breeding site" for bees.

Warrant Officer Nick Williams, from RAF Shawbury, added: "It's a fascinating project for us, we're really keen on anything environmental.

"We live and work on anything aquifer which is basically where we draw our water from is directly under the ground here.

"Everything we do has an environmental effect so we have to be careful of how we do everything here to make sure nothing seeps to the ground.

"Shawbury is a wonderful place, we're really keen to encourage any environmental project.

"Viv's bee project here is fascinating in that it's expanded so much and it's heading around the country and increasing the bee population.

"We're just really proud to be associated with Viv's organisation."