To Hive or Not to Hive – is Beekeeping in Churchyards and Cemeteries a Good Idea?

12th March 2024


Churchyards and cemeteries are peaceful places where people can reflect and connect with nature. Lately, we have been asked about having beehives in burial grounds. If you are considering this, we hope this information helps.

Is beekeeping the right thing for you?

First of all, beekeeping is about managed honeybees. It is not about the conservation of wild bee species. Although there are positive benefits of honeybees and beekeeping, there are concerns in the conservation world that, in certain circumstances, managed honeybees can have detrimental impacts on wild pollinator species – through competition for resources and disease transmission. Just one hive can have 50,000 bees! For more information about this topic, please visit the Bumblebee Conservation Trust  Managed honeybees – Bumblebee Conservation Trust

And there is also a good article explaining the potential impact here:

If you have considered the potential impact of managed honeybees on wild bee populations in your particular circumstances and feel that there is still a good case for keeping honeybees, then read on for tips on accessing the right information and support.

Learn with the British Beekeeping Association

Start by learning about honeybees. We would strongly advise contacting the British Beekeeping Association (BBKA). There are over 270 beekeeping area associations and branches who serve their local community with support and education. The majority offer beekeeping experiences and training courses. They can also advise on insurance. Understanding what is involved helps your group to consider whether having a beehive is right for you. Click here to find your nearest beekeeping association branch.

Person looking after bees in a hive
Bees in a bee hive

Plan wisely

We would recommend that hives are managed by a knowledgeable person who is a member of the BBKA. They will know where to put the hives, what kind to use, and what safety rules need to be followed. Is a member of your group wanting to learn to be a beekeeper? If so, they can join the association. However, if you are just wanting to offer your site as a space to host a beehive – without having the responsibility of managing the bees – you can register your interest by entering your site on the BBKA map. There are many experienced beekeepers looking for new homes for their bees!

Looking after the bees

Manage your site so it is good for the bees. Honeybees visit flowers for two purposes – to collect pollen, which is used to feed the brood, and to collect nectar that can be turned into honey to feed the colony over winter. You can increase the flowers in your grass by simply raising the cutting blade of the mower to around 10cm so low-growing plants such as clover and self-heal can grow tall enough to flower. Also, consider allowing some species-rich areas of your churchyard to grow long over the summer months. Choose suitable plants for flower beds and pots such as sunflowers, catmint, asters, wallflowers, and heathers, to name a few! Avoid double flowers as these often have large, extra petals that render the pollen and nectar inaccessible. Avoid using harmful chemicals. Remember that adding a hive of honeybees to your site will decrease the pollen and nectar available to wild pollinators which are already struggling. To compensate for this, please manage your site to increase the amount and diversity of flowers and reach out to owners of neighbouring land to do the same.

Involve the community

Consider having interpretive signage to provide information about honeybee biology, behaviour, and the benefits of beekeeping. Activities such as honey tastings, bee-themed art exhibitions, and hive tours attract people of all ages, fostering a sense of community spirit and engagement. Holding workshops where people can learn about beekeeping together can bring people closer and make them care more about the environment. Include information about wild bees and other pollinators too.


Do carefully consider if keeping managed honeybees is right for your situation and your community, because although the benefits are numerous, keeping honeybees does not support the wild population of pollinators and, in some circumstances, may even be detrimental. Seek advice from the British Beekeeping Association to help with your decision and to decide how much you want to be involved in the care of the hives. Their wealth of experience and expertise will be invaluable.

Further information

The precautionary approach of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust
Managed honeybees – Bumblebee Conservation Trust

An article on how honeybees compete with wild pollinators and taking steps to reducing the impact on wild pollinators so beekeeping can coexist in harmony with wild pollinators

Helping native bees in Lichfield Diocese

Beehive adventures of others….

The rooftop beekeepers of Manchester Cathedral

Beekeeping in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

Keeping hives at St Thomas

Keeping hives on St Johns’ church roof

Beehives at Highgate Cemetery

St Michael’s Bees

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