It was just over a year ago that social artist Kathleen Friend approached us about bringing honeys bees to the land. Local resident and mutual friend Gary introduced us. We knew this would be a meaningful and worthy project, but it has proved to be far more engaging, educational and community building than we expected. Kathy, as she is known to locals, is an experienced beekeeper and if you have ever met her you will know how much knowledge and interest she brings to the subject of bees. It’s contagious. Her idea wasn’t any ordinary bee project though. Kathy wanted to house the bees in a structure which she has modelled on a traditional doo-kit/doo-cot/dovecot; a large home for pigeons often made from corrugated iron. There’s one up by the canal near Firhill basin.
Kathy’s beedookit idea is genius, since it allows communities to have bees on the land, but keeps people (and bees) safe and at a distance.
The idea behind the beedookit is that the bees live upstairs inside the large temporary structure; the bees exit and enter the beedookit through small slits at the top of the structure (you can see the slits in the picture above, they are located at the bottom section of the wooden top part of the beedookit). Kathy had a clear idea and vision for what the beedookit would look like and where it would be situated on the land. The joiner she had to build the structure fell through at the last minute. Luckily, we knew of a community member who might be able to help and pointed her to our friend and volunteer Josh Reid. Josh has volunteered with the Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow for some years now, you may have been to one of his infamous yearly firework displays on the land? or his rocket launching at the space event a few years ago? to name just a couple of ways he has helped out. Josh’s mum Betsy is a beekeeper so Josh has a family connection with bees. Josh is also a brilliant engineer and has a large workshop nearby in Maryhill. Josh immediately offered to help out, and this reflects his generous spirit. He refined Kathy’s idea then built the beedookit in his workshop. In true Josh style, he did all of this in amongst a full time busy job, selling and moving house and supporting his wife and 3 children.
The beedookit wouldn’t be here with out Josh’s engineering prowess.
Admittedly it ended up a lot bigger than we expected but I think you will agree it is a beautiful structure, while also being very much in keeping with our space and also the traditional dookit design envisioned by Kathy.
It was a major feat getting the structure onto the land and into the pre dug holes. But Kathy, Josh and their team of helpers did it.
The goodwill didn’t end there. To prepare for the structure arriving our Land and Community Garden coordinator Joni Mackay (who sadly no longer works with us) helped Kathy to facilitate the hole digging. The Conservation Volunteers and RBS volunteers also helped out. The Conservation Volunteers have been supporting and working with us the last 6 years building and making things on the land: raised beds, tipi, mudkitchen and helping with conservation work. They also played a critical role in our campaign to save the land from a housing development. Check out the hard work and success of digging the holes Copyright Kathleen Friend
To increase community engagement Kathy wanted a way for people to look at the bees. She created a periscope for people to look into the beehive directly, without having to get inside the beedookit. This has become a very busy spot and people often come by just to look through the periscope to see how the bees are getting on.
Kathy has worked with local schools, Dunard and St Charles Primary, and the children came up with some brilliant bee picture for the beedookit. Kathy put these pictures up on the day of the beedookit launch during the West-end Festival. MP Patrick Grady joined Kathy to ceremoniously opened the beedookit.
Copyright Kathleen Friend. The beedookit at our halloween event
We had previously contemplated bringing bees to the land, however there was no one with a practical enough vision or the skill to support bees long term on the site. We had also been warned against bringing bees to the land by bigger conservation groups like Bug Life who argued that large number of bees could potentially outcompete and interfere with local insect life and biodiveristy – although the warning was more connected to commercial bee hives. Kathy’s project has been the perfect idea for bringing bees to a community space. It has brought people together. It has made us plant more meadow plots (with support from the RSPB, Joni and the gardening crew), flowers and plants to support our new wee pals. We even hosted a bee festival at the beginning of 2018. Just a few weeks ago we planted 200 more crocuses thanks to the Conservation Volunteers. Supposedly these are early flowering and the bees love them.
Kathy has been regularly at the beedookit educating people about the bees and training local people up in how to manage and care for the bees. Even the little ones have been enjoying beekeeping sessions.
Not only has the bee project brought people together but we also got a little amount of honey from the bees. Delicious. Maybe next year there will be more honey! what do you think Kathy?
Lastly, we’d like to say a massive thank you to Kathy for brining honey bees to our community. And Happbee anniversary Kathy. The beedookit project has strengthened our community and raised awareness for one of the most special creatures in our community – the honey bees. Thanks Kathy.