2013-05-31  facebook twitter rss

Beekeepers Report Dramatic Winter Losses

The British Beekeepers Association is calling on the nation to Adopt A Beehive this Father’s Day and help support Britain’s struggling honey bees.

Like all fathers and those with dependents, beekeepers are kept busy trying to rear a happy and healthy brood, cope with strong females in the form of Queen bees, and ensure their brood is well fed and housed. That’s not all, beekeepers also have to go the extra mile to keep their bees safe, whether collecting and rehiving swarms of honey bees that would not survive in the wild, or treating their bees against threats from pests like the deadly varroa mite.

Alastair Blant (right) and David Neale in the Bug Zone at the Cotswold Farm Park

Beekeepers also have to cope with the weather, and after a dismal summer last year that saw UK beekeepers report an unprecedented 72 per cent reduction in honey production, the prolonged cold spring has continued to cause further problems to the decimated bees.

A perfect gift for anyone interested in the world of beekeeping, Adopt A Beehive is the only virtual adoption scheme in the UK that raises funds for applied research and education projects into honey bee health, and gives adopters a chance to follow their adopted beekeepers highs and lows throughout the year.

Adopt a Beehive can be purchased online at www.adoptabeehive.co.uk; or by phone on the local call rate number 0845 680 7038.

One of three mouthfuls of food we eat is dependent on pollinators like the honey bee, and with virtually no honey bees left in the wild, beekeepers are the last guardians of these hard working insects. Through the Adopt A Beehive scheme you can follow one of 18 beekeepers across the country, from the Hobbs Family in the South East, to the President of the Scottish Beekeepers Association Phil in Ayr, or Jules in the Midlands, who runs beekeeping courses and small-holding training sessions on her farm.

The BBKA believes training is essential to ensure beekeepers have the skills they need for best husbandry and the ongoing protection of our honey bees. All Adopt beekeepers are trained to the highest level, with two recently becoming master beekeepers, the highest level of training a beekeeper can achieve, whilst two are microscopy experts and the rest are either trained swarm collectors or involved with training beginner beekeepers.

Adopt A Beehive has revealed that all but one of the nineteen adopt beekeepers across the UK and Northern Ireland have lost at least one beehive due to the bad winter weather. The prolonged cold and wet weather kept bees confined to their hives for far longer than usual, disrupting colonies feeding processes, and breeding patterns.

Honey bees are the only type of bee that doesn’t hibernate in the winter, instead relying on food supplies and a healthy number of over-wintering bees that can cluster together to keep warm. As Ian Wallace, Adopt A Beehive beekeeper in the North East explains, in many cases this hasn’t happened:

“Winter bees are fundamentally different from the ones that you see in the summer, as they live longer and carry much greater stores of food in their bodies. This allows them to survive from October to March whilst summer bees live only 5 – 7 weeks as flying bees. However, given the length of the winter, we saw large scale deaths of winter bees with no new bees to replace them.”

Ian lost three hive last winter, largely because of the poor weather, and a similar story could be found with Peter Hutton, one of the Adopt A Beehive beekeepers in the South East, who despite having over 50 years experience of keeping bees, has lost or expects to lose thirty five per cent of his honey bee colonies due to the prolonged cold.

The BBKA’s definitive Winter Loss survey will be published in June which will clarify how typical the Adopt beekeepers are of the wider beekeeping community which they represent.

BBKA spokesperson, Nicky Smith, commented:

“After a desperately bad summer harvest last year, the last thing the bees needed was the prolonged cold spring. Beekeepers are doing the right thing by closely monitoring their colonies food stores, but time will tell just how badly the spring impacts on this years honey harvest.”

“Everyone can do their bit to help the honey bee and other pollinators by planting bee friendly plants. Herbs like marjoram, rosemary and thyme are great for bees, as are fruit trees, and vegetables like broad beans. Non-beekeepers could also join the BBKA’s Adopt A Beehive scheme and help fund important research into honey bee health. It makes a great present for Father’s Day, giving anyone interested in the world of beekeeping a chance to learn more about what it involves from the comfort of their armchair.”

The BBKA’s Adopt A Beehive campaign is the only scheme in the UK that directly funds applied research into applied research and education projects into honey bee health. All adopters receive a welcome goodie pack full of honey bee goodies, and receive three seasonal updates of their local adopted beekeeper throughout the year.

British Beekeepers

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