Annus horri-bee-lis

30 October 2012

2012 is becoming a year to forget for British farmers.

An unprecedented winter drought was wiped out by the summer deluge. The sun shone on the Olympics and Paralympics but by August BBC's Countryfile declared "The farming timetable has been thrown completely out of kilter."

British bees have had a tough time too.

The Government's National Bee Unit chose August to issue a 'starvation alert'. Record wet weather has stopped honey bees doing what they do best; the usually simple task of gathering their food and pollinating wildflowers, trees and crops. 

The cupboard's empty

Today's report of a devastating 72% drop in UK honey yields by the British Beekeepers Association is yet another demonstration of the extraordinary pressure all bees are under.

Bad weather for honey bees also means bad weather for their wild cousins. Britain's 260 plus species of bumble and solitary bees help farmers put food on our plates and supermarket shelves.

In fact wild bees pollinate more of our crops than honey bees. And they are at further risk - unlike honey bees, they can't be fed by beekeepers when wild food runs short.

Help or hinder?

Public interest in bees is growing every year. In London the number of people becoming beekeepers has doubled since 2008. 

We've found this too from the public's overwhelming support for The Bee Cause this year.

It's great that people are interested in bees. But any rise in the number of honey bee colonies in cities needs to be matched by more food for them to eat.

Too many bees chasing too little food spells starvation. London Beekeepers Association now warns that urban beekeeping may be getting out of hand. It's easy to see why.

Yes, London 'is one of the greenest cities in the world' but that does not mean there's enough food for the bees. The trick is to have the right plants and trees to give bees the pollen and nectar they seek all year round. Efforts to green our towns and cities need to be ramped up to ensure the right plants are grown across the seasons.

We can all help. Window boxes, gardens, parks, road verges or shop fronts, almost any space can be used to grow plants that bees and other pollinators crave.

In uncertain times we need bees to do what they do best – to buzz about pollinating as they gather their food. It's as simple as that.

Please support our Bee Cause campaign.

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