Manchester bees buzzing about sewage works

Image: United Utilities

Thousands of bees that have taken up residence at a sewage treatment works are getting busy making honey.

Twelve colonies, each home to up to 100,000 bees, arrived at Altrincham wastewater treatment works in Manchester, UK earlier this year, thanks to a partnership between United Utilities and the Manchester Honey Company, who were introduced by Friends of Carrington Moss community group.

The hives were positioned on a plot of land next to the works, which has turned out to be the perfect location. The bees are collecting nectar, pollinating plants as they go, and in the autumn their first batch of honey will be harvested.

"All the site team enjoy watching the bees buzzing around and they can’t wait to taste the honey."

Mark Sewell, United Utilities
Image: United Utilities

Gareth Trehearn, who runs Manchester Honey Company, said, “I was delighted when we were able to explore the idea of having hives at the wastewater treatment works in Altrincham, thanks to a suggestion from the Friends of Carrington Moss. There are plenty of plants all around that are perfect for pollinators, and there’s a water source in Sinderland Brook too.”

Mark Sewell, catchment manager at United Utilities, said, “We’re so proud to have the bees living here at Altrincham Wastewater Treatment Works.

“All the site team enjoy watching them buzzing around, and of course they can’t wait to taste the honey. We’re going to create space for more hives later this year and work with Gareth to ensure we’re maintaining this patch of land in a way that will help the bees continue to thrive.

“Providing a home for these important pollinators is a great way to support the local environment, helping us in our aim to make our region greener, and also gives us the chance to help the local community and a local business too."

The worker bee has been symbol for Manchester for over 150 years. It represents the hard work ethic and unity of Mancunians, and the city as an industrial hive of activity.

United Utilities now has 143 hives on its land across north-west England, and with around 60,000 bees on average per hive, that could mean 8.5 million additional workers helping to pollinate plants and crops.