13.6% Decline in UK Honey Bees Confounds Experts

honeybees decline uk photo

Image credit: BeesinFrance, used under Creative Commons license.

British honey bees were already in deep trouble. But just as a new campaign to save London's bees gears up for the Olympics, researchers are reporting yet another disastrous winter with losses as high as 17.1% of hives in some parts of the country. All this, despite the fact that the winter should have been a good one for bees.

But it's not all bad news.
The Guardian reports that experts are puzzled by the decline in UK honey bees over the winter. While a cold winter and early spring should, apparently, have favored bees—the losses suggest that the country's bee population is still in serious trouble (this failed beekeeper actually thought cold winters were bad for bees). The worse-than-expected decline could have serious knock on effects for both biodiversity and agriculture:

Experts worry that the declines will affect plant productivity. There are also concerns that the declines, along with drought conditions in some areas, will mean less English honey this year.

Martin Smith, president of the British Beekeepers Association, which carried out the survey, said: "If this was measured against similar losses in livestock it would be seen as disastrous and there would be great concern on the knock-on impact of food prices."

There is, however, a small note of optimism. While a 13.6% average loss (17.1% in the North-East) is undoubtedly severe, it does at least mark a slowdown in the rate of decline. Four years ago beekeepers were reporting one-in-three hives being wiped out. As numerous campaigns gear up to help save the honey bee, advocates are calling for gardeners everywhere to plant bee friendly plants, especially in the run up to Fall and Winter:

The association is calling on everyone who has a garden, however small, to plant bee-friendly plants this summer. "It is really important that there are flowering nectar-rich plants around in August, September and October to provide the nutrition that's needed so the bees can top up their stores of honey in the hive to see them through winter," said Smith.

More on Honey Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder
Can The Olympics Save London's Honey Bees?
Colony Collapse Disorder and the Epic Fight to Save the Bees
Vanishing of the Bees: A Documentary (Video)

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