THE Scottish Parliament’s thriving honey bees have grown to a population of over a million, Holyrood’s beekeeper has revealed.

In an exclusive interview with The National, Stuart Hood said that the “very popular” bees are “loving life” on the Parliament’s grounds adding to the growing population.

Family-run Hood’s Honey in Ormiston, East Lothian, manages the hives and have been beekeeping since 1950.

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Nestled in the Member’s Garden leading off from Holyrood’s cafeteria, Hood told how the number of hives has grown to 15, after a particularly hot May and June led to a “perfect swarm” allowing the buzzing inhabitants to thrive.

And, Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone hailed the honey bees for their role in promoting biodiversity, adding that they are “accepted and admired” by visitors and staff alike.

The bee’s honey flies off the shelves at the Scottish Parliament’s gift shop every time it becomes available, but that isn’t all the honeybees contribute to Holyrood life, as their beeswax is used to fill the Great Seal of Scotland when any legislation is formally introduced.

The National: The Scottish Parliament's bee population has grownThe Scottish Parliament's bee population has grown (Image: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament)

The bioproduct has been used to seal every act passed since the parliament’s inception - well over 200 in total.

The Scottish Parliament became the first legislature in the UK to introduce beehives in 2014, and Hood said that he was “very proud” to be part of a small part of Holyrood history.

“We’ve went up to 15 hives now and in the height of summer each hive will have between 65,000 and 70,000 bees in it,” he told The National. “So it’s a lot, it will be over a million bees in here now.”

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In January this year, the Scottish Parliament said that the resident honey bee population had swelled to over half a million, but now the number sits at double that.

“They’re pretty much an established part of Parliament life, more importantly, I think they love life here at the Parliament,” Hood added.

“It’s a lovely cosy spot for them, they’ve got 650 acres here out here in Holyrood Park so they’re really very happy being Parliament bees.”

The National: Stuart Hood said the bees are 'loving life' in the Scottish ParliamentStuart Hood said the bees are 'loving life' in the Scottish Parliament (Image: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament)

The bees have an expansive area to explore across Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

Hood explained that due to a particularly hot couple of months earlier this year, the beekeepers decided to increase the number of hives from 11 to 15.

He explained: “These small hives, nuclei, they’ve been bred from the hives at the Parliament here so it's a unique strain of beehive now, everything here has been bred onsite in the Parliament, so it’s very exciting for the future.”

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Presiding Officer Johnstone added that the bees are now a “well-established” part of parliamentary life.

“They’re very much accepted, admired and everyone appreciates the role they have in promoting biodiversity,” she told The National.

“I mean we need bees to survive.

The National: Alison Johnstone hailed the bees role in promoting biodiversityAlison Johnstone hailed the bees role in promoting biodiversity (Image: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament)

“They’re so important when it comes to the food chain and our ecology.

“The Parliament wants to be an exemplar in all it's doing in regards to climate change and biodiversity.

“We’re in the chamber debating these subjects and here we have an example of what we can do in our grounds to promote that.”

Scotland’s honey bee population has been slowly declining over the past decade due to excessively wet spring and summer weather, as honey bees are unable to forage for pollen and nectar in wet weather.

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Beekeeper Hood agreed with Johnstone on the importance of the bees, adding that they are “crucial to the survival of the planet”.

“Not only are they here but they’re now pollinating plants and flowers in 650 acres out there,” he said.

“If you look at the crop of apples in the members garden here I don’t doubt they’ve been pollinated as well.

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“It’s an incredible crop of apples, but the bees are also crucial to the future of the parliament.”

Johnstone said that she was keen to ensure that Holyrood made the best of the grounds, with the bees thriving and contributing to the success of biodiversity in the grounds.

“We have a great campus here and fabulous grounds, and it’s important that we make the most of them,” she said.

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“That we think about what we’re planting, where we’re planting, and the bees have a really important role to play there.

“We’re trying to make sure that we have as many native plants around to make sure that we work for the birds and the insects and so on that we have here in Scotland.

“They’re not just attractive, but they’re actually functional, and they’re really doing everything they can as we move to be a net zero Parliament.”

The PO said that she hoped the Scottish Parliament would look at “each and every thing we do” to make sure that they are taking a sustainable approach.

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While the bees have proved popular, they have occasionally closed the garden during the summer months when they swarm - but Hood insisted that as far as he was aware no one had been stung by the hive’s residents.

He added: “In a place like this we have to balance what we do with the bees so on a daily basis to make sure we’re not going to upset them, no members of staff are going to be stung anything like that, so it’s a balancing act.

“It’s been a success, I don’t know of anyone to my knowledge who has been stung.”

The bee hives produce between 80lbs and 120lbs of honey each autumn, which is bottled and then sold in the Scottish Parliament’s gift shop.