Bee fostering scheme launches in Dorset and Hampshire

More than 500 new beehives could be installed in gardens as part of a project to boost dwindling bee numbers.

Bee Mission aims to allow people to "foster" colonies of bees in gardens and open spaces in Hampshire and Dorset to provide homes for pollinators.

Businessman Chris Bialan said he hoped to reverse the trend of "decimated" bee populations.

The project also aims to train homeless people in beekeeping and business skills.

International bee populations are under threat from parasites and increasing use of pesticides, prompting fears about the impact on the pollination of crops.

Set up by Mr Bailan as a community interest company, the project aims to supply colonies of bees to private gardens, balconies and open spaces and either train people to look after their own hives or send beekeepers round to manage them.

Each hive can contain up to 50,000 bees and can produce up to 50kg of honey. Anyone offering to host a hive gets a share of the honey or profits from its sale.

"There's lots of people out there that care just as much as I do about the plight of the bees but wouldn't have even thought about installing a hive as they don't know anything about hives or bees and don't know how to look after them.

"Imagine if even a small percentage of people had a hive installed and how much difference that could make to our bee population," he added.

Potential sites are assessed for their suitability as a sudden increase in the bee population could have an adverse effect on other natural pollinators if there is insufficient pollen to go round.

The project is also providing work opportunities and training in beekeeping and other skills for homeless people in Bournemouth.

After struggling with addiction and living on the streets of Bournemouth for two years, Kim Bates is now training to become a beekeeper.

She said: "Back then I felt worthless, having something now to focus on and better myself as person, I can't put that into words."

Among the project's early adopters, Rich Stone has fostered two hives on the smallholding in Bournemouth he created with his brother Nick as a community project during the first coronavirus lockdown.

He said: "It breaks down the barriers of entry - I didn't have the time to learn beekeeping, although in time I'm interested to understand how it all works.

"Its a win win - we provide an eco-system for the bees, and they help pollinate our produce."