Honeybee Populations’ Numbers Lower Than Feared

A survey by the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) has revealed that nearly one in three of the Uk’s 240,000 honeybee hives did not survive over the last winter and srping, putting at risk the pollination of fruits and vegetables.

One in five colonies were reported dead earlier in 2008 by a government survey of 10% of the UK’s hives. The losses reported in the BBKA survey are substantially higher. Defra has attributed high mortality to wet weather last summer and early in spring 2008, which confined bees to their hives. They were unable to forage for nectar and pollen and this provided the opportunity for pathogens to build up and spread through the colonies. The BBKA believe the causes are less clear.

The President of the BBKA, Tim Lovett, stated that: “Average winter bee losses due to poor weather and disease vary from betwen 5- 10%, so a 30% loss is deeply worrying.” The Honey Association warns that English honey will run out by Christmas, with shortages into next year.

The colony collapse is expected to cost the UK economy £50 million. Rowse Honey, the UK’s leading honey company, has pledged to provide extra support for honeybee research. The company has pledged to provide £25,000 to support research to find a “hardier bee”, which can better withstand disease. Defra currently spends £1.3 million on bee health each year, with an extra £200,000 for research. The BBKA has called for government to increase support to £8 million per annum.

Rowse’s clear English honey comes from the borage plant. However, less borage has been planted this year due to the increased demand for biofuels; making wheat more profitable to grow.

Other honey-producing nations have seen a decline in their bee populations. Argentina has seen a 27% drop in honey yield due to droughts and the planting of soya beans for biofuel.