Horsted Green Park, Wealden’s latest country park, is frequented by hundreds of visitors and their dogs each year. But a far corner of the park has become home to a thriving industry of pollinators – thanks to the High Weald Beekeepers’ Association.
The swathes of buttercups enjoying the summer sun outside of Uckfield provide some of the pollen and the nectar that the bees live on and use to make honey. They will fly as far as three miles to find nectar and pollen, and by visiting different flowers along the way, help to fertilise many thousands of plants to provide fruit, seed and crops for the future. No pesticides are used at Horsted Green making it a great home for the bees.
“June and July are very busy months for our bees,” explained Dr Peter Coxon (pictured, above), who helps look after the ten hives at Horsted Green Park on behalf of the High Weald Beekeepers. “The worker bees will be out all day foraging. They use a complex ‘waggle dance’ to signal to colleagues where the best nectar and pollen can be found, and off they go. A 1lb jar of honey represents 60,000 kilometres of bee flight. It may involve visits to 2 million flowers.
“There can be up to 60,000 female worker bees in a hive serving just one queen. During its short life, a worker bee’s output produces just one quarter of a teaspoonful of honey. The worker bees are happy going about their pollen–gathering work. They only get defensive if someone threatens their hive or maybe obstructs their entrance.
“Alongside the worker bees in the hive will be some 1,000 male drones. These bees don’t sting. They may get a chance to fertilise the queen. But, whatever happens, the females banish them from the hive when winter comes. They are left to die. The workers and queen hunker down for the winter, unlike many bumble bees which hibernate.”
“We are glad the bees enjoy living at Horsted Green Park,” said Conservative councillor Roy Galley, Wealden Cabinet member responsible for Climate Change. “It is important we all help provide the conditions in which they can thrive and help keep our countryside green and fertile.”
“The many different species of bee play an outstanding role in the ecology of the planet,” explains Dr Coxon. “Bees are responsible for pollinating 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world. Without their efforts, whole food chains could collapse, putting the human population in jeopardy. Nectar is the source of carbohydrate the bees use for energy whereas pollen is their source of protein. It’s needed when raising lots of youngsters.
“Unfortunately bee populations are under threat from pesticides, the loss of flower meadows, the predatory varroa mite and climate change. That is why it is important to encourage bee colonies wherever we can.”
Conservative-led Wealden District Council stopped using insecticides and herbicides at its 30 acre Horam Crematorium site in 2019. The policy was expanded to include all Council-owned green spaces in 2020. Current evidence indicates that they can be properly maintained without using pesticides. The Council is proposing to introduce a Pesticide and Herbicide Minimisation Policy by 2023. It will only allow the spot treatment of pernicious weeds and invasive species by herbicides in landscaped areas. Elsewhere pesticides will only be allowed where it is essential for the protection of livestock.
As part the establishment of Walshes Park, Wealden’s other country park in Crowborough, hundreds of square metres of invasive Himalayan balsam had to be removed by hand. This has successfully eradicated the species from the park.