Image credit: Me
From Colony Collapse Disorder to stolen bee colonies to hipsters reinventing the bee hive, bees are in trouble. (OK, the last example might actually be a good thing, if it does what its makers claim!) Perhaps the most telling indication of how bad things have gotten is what constitutes good news these days. New figures from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) reveal that one fifth of the British bee population died last winter - and that seems to be a distinct improvement on last year's figures.
Now the previous winter, reported colony deaths were as high as one third of the national population, so this is definitely an improvement. (The BBKA speculates that a period of cold weather encouraged bees to cluster, helping them to overwinter better.) But nobody is celebrating the improvement too much - Tim Lovett of the BBKA told The Guardian that bee deaths are still double what they should be:
"It underlines the need for research into the causes and remedies for disease in order to ensure that our principal economic pollinator, the honey bee, can survive the onslaught of the threats it currently faces. Also, it still shows that there is a worrying and continuing high level of colony loss which we have to attribute to disease and for which we currently have few answers in terms of husbandry or medication."
As an interesting aside, Lovett's remarks also reflect a certain frustration at the undervaluing of beekeepers - arguing that similar losses in other agricultural sectors would be considered "disastrous". He may well have a point - particularly given the pivotal role that bees play as pollinators for agriculture in general. When was the last time you saw a cow pollinate a cucumber?
More on Honeybees and Colony Collapse Disorder
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Blogger Writes about Colony Collapse Disorder in his Own Back Yard
Saving the Bees
Photo Essay: Bees and Bee Keepers in Crisis