Tuesday, August 12, 2008

British honeybee deaths reaching crisis point

The Guardian (UK): Britain's honeybees have suffered catastrophic losses this year, according to a survey of the nation's beekeepers, contributing to a shortage of honey and putting at risk the pollination of fruits and vegetables. The survey by the British Beekeepers' Association (BBKA) revealed that nearly one in three of the UK's 240,000 honeybee hives did not survive this winter and spring. The losses are higher than the one in five colonies reported dead earlier this year by the government after 10% of hives had been inspected.

The BBKA president, Tim Lovett, said he was very concerned about the findings: "Average winter bee losses due to poor weather and disease vary from between 5% and 10%, so a 30% loss is deeply worrying. This spells serious trouble for pollination services and honey producers."

The National Bee Unit has attributed high bee mortality to the wet summer in 2007 and in the early part of this spring that confined bees to their hives. This meant they were unable to forage for nectar and pollen and this stress provided the opportunity for pathogens to build up and spread.

But the BBKA says the causes are unclear. Its initial survey of 600 members revealed a marked north-south divide, with 37% bee losses in the north, compared to 26% in the south. "We don't know why there is a difference and what is behind the high mortality," said Lovett.

The government recognises that the UK's honeybee hives - run by 44,000 mostly amateur beekeepers - contribute around £165m a year to the economy by pollinating many fruits and vegetables. "30% fewer honeybee colonies could therefore cost the economy some £50m and put at risk the government's crusade for the public to eat five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day," Lovett warned….

An Austrian bee, shot by Anita Martinz from Klagenfurt, Austria, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

1 comment:

The Bee Tree said...

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