Home Environment and health Beekeepers’ fears over low honey crop

Beekeepers’ fears over low honey crop

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Honey bees
Drop in honey yield worries beekeepers

Poor yield sparks more worries over future of honey bees

This year’s honey crop has been described as ‘depressingly small’ in a statement by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA).

Just 24lbs (nearly 11 kilos) was the average produced per beekeeper, highlighted in the BBKA’s annual Honey Survey – a decrease of 2.3lbs over last year’s crop.

The two most productive regions in England were the South East, producing 30.1lbs of honey and the East with 29.3lbs of honey per hive.

Those areas which had a wet summer, Wales and the South West, both saw their honey crop drop to 18lbs per hive.

Most of Britain’s honey production is carried out by amateur beekeepers, but in much of the rest of Europe, it is carried out by bee farmers. Like the rest of the EU, Britain does not produce enough honey to meet demand.

Honey bees
Worries over the viability of honey bee hives

Beekeeper Job Hobrough said: “A honey crop of 50 to 100lbs was typical when I started beekeeping in the 1950s.

“In those days, farmers under-planted crops with clover to nourish the land. Nowadays, there just isn’t time or space for this style of farming. I think it is having a huge impact on the honey crop, by reducing the forage available not just to honey bees, but all our insects.

“I warn new beekeepers not to expect a big crop of honey, and to be fair many people aren’t in it nowadays for the honey.”

Job was recently awarded his BBKA certificate for 60 years of beekeeping and is the BBKA’s Adopt a Beehive representative for the North East region.

Weather conditions cause variations in the honey crop – the cold winter of 2014 saw the yield drop to just 8lbs a colony – it is the steady overall decline which is worrying.

Bee on chive
Bee on chive

Beekeepers’ fears

The top five factors worrying beekeepers about the future of the honey bees are:

  1. Use of pesticides including neonicotinoids – 62 per cent;
  2. Loss of forage from agricultural development – 31 per cent;
  3. Asian hornet – 32 per cent;
  4. Varroa mite – 28 per cent;
  5. Climate change – 28 per cent.

BBKA chairman Margaret Murdin said: “Everyone can play a part in helping honey bees and all the other insects they love such as butterflies and bumblebees by planting the right sort of flowers and shrubs.

“Check the label to see that anything you plant will be rich in nectar and pollen, as not all plants are equal in this respect. A crocus is so much better for bees than a daffodil, for example.

“Our survey shows that suburban gardens and urban rooftops produce some of the best honey crops, so how we garden really can make a difference.”

A crocus is more valuable to bees than a daffodil
A crocus is more valuable to bees than a daffodil

Survey methodology

The Honey Survey was based on email and postal responses from 1446 beekeepers in England and Wales, conducted between September 1 and October 12, 2017.

                    2017     2016

All England    23.8      26.1

East              29.3      31.3

London          27.9      27

Midlands        22.5      23.9

North East     24.9       23.2

North West    23.0       19.9

South East     30.1       28.0

South West    17.7       25.6

Wales            17.8       new for 2016

Adopt a Beehive

This is a fundraising scheme which encourages members of the public to learn more about the honey bee and beekeeping while raising funds for environmental and education projects to help save the honey bee.

All the beekeepers who support the scheme are volunteers. More than 8,000 people have joined the scheme. For more information, visit www.adoptabeehive.co.uk.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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