Creating a buzz for biodiversity at CATS

Our CATS facility on Teesside proudly hosts an estimated 40,000 honeybees in four hives at the site, as part of its biodiversity action plan created in collaboration with the Industry Nature Conservation Association.

Under stewardship of the CATS Green Team, led by the terminal’s operations team leader Mike Smith, the biodiversity action plan has a clear aim – to maintain and, where possible, enhance the habitat around the terminal to support the diverse flora and fauna in the area.

The CATS beekeeping journey began back in 2019 when the Green Team was looking into a range of energy efficiency opportunities at site. It turned out that the energy efficiency consultant accompanying them on a tour of the site was an amateur beekeeper.

Mike commented, “Our consultant mentioned that the flora in the area would be ideal for honeybees – around the terminal there is an abundance of plants like orchids, birds foot trefoil, kidney vetch, mouse-ear bindweed, and ladies bestraw. This got me thinking about the possibility of hosting beehives at CATS, having heard about the decline in bees and pollinators in general across the UK. I thought it would be great if we could do our bit to help on a local scale.”

Mike subsequently contacted the Cleveland Beekeepers Association (CBKA) to ask if any of its members would like to host their hives at CATS, and his offer was gladly accepted resulting in two hives onsite from June to September 2020. In advance of the hives’ arrival, members of the Green Team prepared a small, sheltered area where they would be located.

Mike continued, “It wasn’t all plain sailing and there were a few challenges to overcome. Since no one at CATS had any beekeeping training or prior knowledge, the bees are cared for by two trained members of the CBKA. Also, our coastal location brings with it adverse weather, it can be particularly cold and windy which resulted in a low crop of honey after those first few months – the bees had spent a lot of time in the hives so consumed most of the honey themselves.”

Thankfully, when the remaining honey was harvested, the beekeepers declared it was light, clear, runny, and very high quality, and as a result they asked if CATS would host two beehives again in 2021, something the Green Team was delighted to agree to.

“Due to better weather conditions that summer, the honey harvest was really good, with the most successful hive producing 16 jars of honey,” said Mike.

This led to the beekeepers asking CATS to extend the hosting site and this year it is playing host to four hives, with one expected to produce as many as 32 jars of honey. Since the honeybees were introduced at CATS, there has been a noticeable increase in the flowering flora close to the hives, which the Green Team firmly believe is due to the pollination provided by the bees.

The CATS Green Team is made up of volunteers from all areas of the site who work closely with management to identify opportunities to improve environmental performance and share best practice. It regularly carries out surveys of moths and butterflies – key biodiversity indicators – to monitor success.

Back to Mike, “As well as our substantial progress with the honeybees, one of our other key successes was in 2019 when we worked with the Butterfly Conservation to re-introduce the small blue butterfly which had been extinct in the Northeast of England for more than 100 years. We are delighted to now have an established colony of small blues on site, and these are now starting to move beyond our boundaries – there have been sightings as far as more than 2km away from CATS.”

The Green Team is also involved in a wide range of other initiatives including energy efficiency, emissions reduction, waste management and recycling and phasing out single use plastics.


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