Concern for Honeybees

As you know I like bees. They’re amazing creatures and some biologists even describe honeybees as a ‘super-organism’ because the whole colony acts like a single living thing. I’ve been stung by bees, they’ve interfered with my Barn Owl monitoring, I’ve had tiny Malaysian rainforest bees fly up my nose… they aren’t always convenient, but you’ve got to love bees.

Bees are the focus of a lot of fuss right now. Rightly so. Bees have come under increasing pressure on their survival, due to emerging pests and diseases which researchers around the world don’t fully understand. Honeybee colonies have been experiencing ‘collapse’ and many British bumblebee species are under threat.

honeybees on comb (c) jasonpball

The British Beekeepers Association marched on Downing Street today. They want Defra to put more effort and funding into the honeybee crisis. What crisis? Take a look at the Autumnwatch report into what is happening to our honeybees.

The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) points out…
“Honeybees don’t just produce honey – they play a vital role in pollinating plants for food and other crops, making a substantial contribution of £165 million per annum to agricultural output. They also have an important environmental role, being responsible for pollinating wild plants which produce seeds and fruits on which birds and wild animals depend.”

“Increased beekeeping research is thus essential if we are to find answers and be able to protect our bees and the benefits they bring to everyone.”

Yesterday the Soil Association launched a campaign against neonicotinoids – pesticides that can interfere with bee navigation, research suggests. Germany, Italy and other countries have banned these already, in support of bees, because of their importance to food production.

How serious a threat they pose could be very high (according to ISIS – Requiem for the Honeybee) or are neonicotinoids a minor effect adding to the bombardment of disease? Bayer Cropscience’s Julian Little dismisses the link between bee colony collapse and these nicotine-based pesticides – he describes the Soil Association’s campaign as “shamelessly opportunistic”.

Whatever you believe, the point is that we definitely need to understand this phenomenon better. We need a strong focus on research, on a big scale, and I support the BBKA in their quest to raise more interest in heling our honeybees.

If you’re keen to start beekeeping, then get membership of BBKA, (Charity No 212025) or if you’d just like to show your support, you could make a donation to the BBKA.

Natureheads blog © Jason Ball

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