HoneyBees in decline
Published 7 Jul 2017
Despite having been around for an amazing 120 million years, according to scientists, bees are now in danger. Since 1900, the UK has lost 20 species of bee, and a further 35 (there are over 250) are considered to be under threat of extinction.
But the problem isn’t just a UK one: beekeepers around the world are reporting unusually high rates of decline in honeybee colonies. The reason is mainly due to farming methods and the loss of many wildflower meadows. Because we need to produce more food, we’re using more chemicals on our crops to make them grow bigger and in abundance.
But these pesticides can kill bees, and the flowers on which they rely for food – it’s estimated that we have lost 97 per cent of our flower-rich grassland since the 1930s. ‘In our gardens we’ve gone for weed-free lawns and easy-to-care-for shrubs, rather than the variety of flowers that all pollinating insects depend on,’ says Diane Roberts, a spokesperson for the British Beekeepers Association. ‘If we can cut down the use of pesticides, we will help the honeybee and all the bumblebees, solitary bees and butterflies that visit our plants.’
By far the worst pesticides for bees are thought to be neonicotinoids. Research by the University of California, San Diego, has shown that exposure to this pesticide can alter a bee’s ability to fly. And if a bee can’t fly, it can’t collect food. Diane Roberts says bees also suffer from a wide range of parasites, including the varroa mite.
Asian hornets are another threat – a nest was found in Gloucestershire last autumn.‘Asian hornets hover outside a hive entrance and catch bees going out to forage,’ she says. ‘They can decimate a colony.’ Campaigners are now calling for a shift from the overuse of pesticides towards ecological farming. The British Beekeepers Association: bbka.org.uk