Prison is a hive of activity with bee-keeping project

PRISONERS at Les Nicolles are benefiting from a new bee-keeping course.

A set of beehives has been donated to the prison to help educate and rehabilitate prisoners.

Site officer for horticulture James Driscoll has been responsible for the project since the idea was first discussed in 2019.

‘It’s all educational and they’re really enjoying it,’ Mr Driscoll said.

Other courses available to prisoners include educational opportunities such as joinery and woodworking, plumbing, hospitality and academic courses.

Two hives were donated initially in 2020 by the Guernsey Beekeepers’ Association and were ready to use by the autumn, after delays caused by lockdown.

Much of the work on the project, from repairing and painting the hives, to reworking the prison garden grounds, was completed by the prisoners themselves.

The garden has a number of crops, planted, picked and processed by the prisoners for the prison kitchen and canteen. Mr Driscoll said that the impact of the hives on the rest of the crops in the prison garden was immediately noticeable. Once the hives were repaired and ready, the prison opened registration to the bee-keeping course and saw it filled to capacity with seven prisoners joining. The course runs for more than eight weeks, with the earlier weeks covering classroom work and theory, moving on to practical skills and working the hives.

Guernsey Beekeepers’ Association ex-president Chris Tomlins volunteers at the prison to run the course and was impressed with the prisoners’ work ethic and receptive attitude.

‘They’re really keen and asking lots of questions,’ he said.

Prisoner John Glynn said he was enjoying the course.

‘He [Mr Tomlins] throws you in at the deep end, but he puts you at ease. The beehive is like its own little world,’ he said.

Mr Tomlins said that healthy hives, like those at the prison, could house as many as 40,000 bees at once.

Their bees are yet to produce a harvest of honey but when the hive is at full strength it is expected to produce about 40 pounds of honey per ‘super’ – the box where honeycomb frames are hung – of its structure.

Any excess honey not consumed in the prison will be packaged and sold, with all funds being reinvested into Clip, the Creative Learning in Prison initiative.

‘I think it’s a fantastic initiative, it’s been really rewarding and of huge benefit to the island,’ said prison governor John De Carteret.

A third hive is planned and it is hoped that more prisoners can be involved –and could even make their own hives.

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