Honey we've shrunk the honey harvest: a challenging year for honeybees and their keepers
Figures from the Government’s National Bee Unit show that the numbers of colonies in London has doubled in the last four years. Yet last week's survey by the British Beekeepers’ Association shows our honeybees were the least productive in the land… a whopping slip of 78% on last year.
Friends of the Earth’s survey shows that only 1 in 10 of us can even identify a honeybee. But also that a healthy number of people want to know more about pollinating insects and others intend to plant in ways that give them enough nectar and pollen.
As a beekeeper I had a big fat ‘zero’ yield for the first time ever this year and others have enjoyed only an average of 5.6lbs in London – that’s just five standard jars of honey.
And next year will reveal the legacy of the poor weather we have had. Bees mate on the wing on a nice summer’s day and we’ve not had too many of those. This means our queen bees may be poorly mated but we won’t know until colonies start to build up in the spring.
This pool of complexities means every beekeeper must have their wits about them. That’s why my organisation – the London Beekeepers Association (LBKA) - continues to offer training so keepers can see when bees are struggling.
I worry that inadequate training together with concerns that bee populations may be outstripping the supply of food may have contributed to the unusually bad honey yields.
LBKA has rallied to raise awareness of all these issues in the press, sometimes controversially, but what it has showed us is that everyone cares about bees and wants to help - we are all beekeepers whether we keep them or not.
Part of being an urban beekeeper these days is helping improve the environment in which bees live. Our message about food for bees is just as clear as our ethos of educating keepers.
We want to link up private business with cash-strapped Local Councils who want to plant more imaginatively in our towns and public spaces.
There’s been a lot of publicity about companies putting honeybee hives on their HQ roof. These could be usefully replaced with planting wildflowers that are good for bees and good for people who feel a growing dis-connect with nature in our bigger cities.
Angela Woods is Secretary of the London Beekeepers Association (LBKA)
For Angela’s tips which plants to grow to help bees see London Bee Keepers Association website
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