The discovery, made by scientists at the University's Centre for Agri-Environmental Research (CAER), shows that demand for insect pollination is growing five times as fast as the number of honeybee colonies across Europe as farmers grow more oil crops, such as oilseed rape and sunflowers, and fruit.
Researchers, led by Professor Simon Potts at the University of Reading, compared the numbers of active beehives to the demand for pollination services across 41 European countries, and mapped the changes between 2005 and 2010. They found:
- In more than half of European countries - including the UK, France, Germany and Italy, there were not enough honeybees to properly pollinate the crops grown.
- The problem was particularly acute in Britain, which has only a quarter of the honeybees it needs to pollinate crops.
- Only Moldova - one of the continent's poorest countries, with an economy more than 300 times smaller than Britain's - has a bigger honeybee deficit than the UK.
- Europe as a whole only has two thirds of the honeybee colonies it needs, with a deficit of more than 13.4 million colonies
The findings suggest that agriculture in many countries is increasingly reliant upon wild pollinators, such as bumblebees, solitary bees and hoverflies. However, Europe still lacks coherent environmental and agricultural policies to protect these insects' habitats....
A 14th century image of bee hives