Rise in urban beekeeping a threat to bees
Well-meaning city types who put hives up in their gardens could actually be harming bees, according to a new study.
By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
7:00AM BST 12 Aug 2013
The Unviersity of Sussex research said that more honey bees in the city just mean less nectar and flowers are available to the wild bee population.
The study, published by The Society of Biology, said people should be planting wild flowers instead.
In London alone, in the five years from 2008 to 2013 the number of hives doubled from 1,677 to more than 3,500.
But Professor Francis Ratnieks, from the Laboratory of Apiculture & Social Insects at Sussex, said the boom in urban beekeeping is not the answer to honeybee declines.
He said it could even be bad for honey bees and other flower-visiting insects as it risks overtaxing the available nectar and pollen supply, and potentially encourages the spread of diseases.
“Both honeybees and wild bees have been declining. Although the causes are complex the most important seems to be loss of flowers and habitat.
“If the problem is not enough flowers, increasing the number of hives risks making that problem worse. The honeybee is just one of many insect species which feed on nectar and pollen. Having a high density of honeybee hives is not only bad for honeybees, but may also affect bumblebees and other species feeding on the same flowers.
“If a game park was short of food for elephants, you wouldn’t introduce more, so why should we take this approach with bees?”
Dr Rebecca Nesbit, of the Society of Biology, said people who want to help bees should plant more wild flowers.
“We must remember that there are around 250 bee species native to the UK, along with many other insects which feed on flowers. By focusing our efforts on providing what these insects lack, we can help not only honeybees but all flower-visiting insects. Everyone can get involved, whether you have a garden, an allotment or a window box. Plant the right flowers and the bees will fly many miles to find them.”…