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Our pollinators face a constant, increasing threat due to loss of habitat and exposure to chemicals, pests and diseases. Many species face extinction.


That’s important because insects, including honey bees, pollinate more than 80% of crop species across Europe.


While Islay has some experienced beekeepers, few people here are trained in ecology and habitat creation to help in a broader project to halt pollinator decline.




While we can’t solve global problems, on Islay we can train future experts and increase the number of pollinators, both native and managed. By creating and encouraging habitat and forage, we can influence the number and diversity of pollinators. 


The native black honeybees making up our colonies are from Andrew Abrahams on Colonsay. Our tutor Tony Miller, a retired teacher from Islay High School, has over 40 years’ experience as a beekeeper. Our team all passed the Scottish Beekeeper Association basic assessment with distinction after just four months training; we are now looking at the intermediate certificate and have begun classes in Higher Environmental Science at Argyll College. 


By training and developing young people as future beekeeping professionals, we can make this project sustainable through income generation and product development, creating valuable long-term employment.


We are also seeking to catalogue flora and fauna species on our roadside verges and to shift perceptions so roadside verges are seen as valuable pollinator corridors. By selectively planting certain low-growing species and grass-suppressing species, we can create a valuable food source for pollinators while avoiding damage caused by cutting the verges at the wrong time for allowing seed production.




This project is currently funded by the European Social Fund, Scottish Government and the People’s Postcode Lottery for two years.


We hope to develop this initiative to a sustainable level, generating income through honey sales, beeswax products and so on.


We are aiming to achieve certified Varroa-free status for Islay, in association with all existing beekeepers on the island. This would enable us to breed disease-free honeybees for sale and export to wider Scottish, Irish and Welsh markets. 




This project employs 4.5 full-time staff with 2 full-time senior roles (Project Co-ordinator and Junior Development Officer), 2 young beekeeping apprentices and one part-time Senior ecologist/beekeeping mentor. We have a waiting list of landowners who wish to take part by hosting hives.


Mr Fitzalan Howard, a local landowner, has donated the use of five areas of land at Coille; we hope to collaborate with his operation and improve habitat quality for all pollinators. We are also setting up a further apiary on Foreland Estate.


Local beekeepers are now seeing the benefit of the project. Argyll College is on-board and hosting an NPA in beekeeping which we will run.


We are working with the Islay Natural History Trust, which implemented the roadside verge survey and monitoring project. All data will be analysed and a proposal for verge habitat improvement will be developed in conjunction with Argyll and Bute Council, encouraging verge species biodiversity.

Awork party from Bruichladdich distillery has helped us to improve the habitat at our apiary.





Funds raised have helped us employ young people with barriers to employment. The environmental benefits are immeasurable. Having locally-sourced products will be a huge benefit, as will an increased number of pollinators to benefit floral biodiversity.


Our Pollinator Initiative team is already providing training courses for local people considering taking up beekeeping. They have also begun to deliver educational sessions for Islay’s schools, looking not only at honey bees but also the broader issues around pollination.


It’s worth noting that there’s currently no other project like this in the UK.

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