The birds and the bees never far from students’ minds, study suggests

Students across the UK are taking a huge interest in the birds and the bees – though their motivation is often conservation rather than carnal, a PA news agency investigation has suggested.

Universities have described how projects such as beekeeping, installing nest boxes, and looking after the campus cows have all helped connect students with the natural environment in an attempt to boost their biodiversity credentials.

Cranfield University in Bedford was among those to cite its award-winning schemes following Freedom of Information requests to more than 100 universities across the country, with new nest boxes credited with attracting birds such as blue tits, robins and yellowhammers, while staff and students are actively involved in volunteering, including honey harvesting and work with the Wildlife Trust.

Garden Birds – Hampshire
Blue tits have been found at Cranfield University since new nest boxes were introduced (Chris Ison/PA)

A beekeeping society was started at the School of Oriental and African Studies, installing hives on its roof space “in order to help reverse the global decline in the bee population”, while the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) was among those to look at honey-making, employing a dedicated beekeeper and keeping three hives in central Glasgow near the GSA campus.

Katie Muir, chairman of the GSA’s beekeeping society, said: “The society was initially set up by a fourth-year Product Design student who happened to be a beekeeper and wanted to share the skill.

“In the first year there were around six members of the society and it has been growing year-on-year. We currently have around 30 members and are taught by an expert from the Glasgow Beekeepers Association.

“Beekeeping is actually comparatively easy and through the six-week course of lectures and practical sessions, which start when the temperature reaches 10C (50F), students have been able both to learn a new skill and support efforts to protect our bee colonies which are so necessary for the planet.”

The Glasgow School of Art has employed a dedicated beekeeper, with three hives in central Glasgow near its campus (GSA Beekeeping Society handout/PA)
The Glasgow School of Art has employed a dedicated beekeeper, with three hives in central Glasgow near its campus (GSA Beekeeping Society handout/PA)

And the Royal Academy of Music said it hoped roof-top beehives would produce its first honey in August 2020.

A spokesman said: “By doing this, we are helping London wildlife and playing our part in promoting biodiversity. It will also be a relaxing diversion for the students.”

A new wildlife pond and heritage orchard were introduced at Suffolk University following a Postcode Lottery grant, while in Kent, great crested newts have been spotted breeding in the university’s ponds for the first time after improvement work was carried out in 2012.

The University of East Anglia has focused on altogether larger creatures, introducing a small herd of cows “to manage the diverse flora and fauna of the fenland, flood plain and meadows at the edge of the campus”.

Birmingham City University said it created wild meadows, erected bird boxes and planted native bulbs, while the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland planted trees to match its annual paper consumption.

Elsewhere, students and staff at Glasgow Caledonian University have been invited to either plant a tree at the university or at home as part of the Woodland Trust’s Big Climate Fightback project.

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