Why Keep Bees?

All bee species are under more pressure than ever before. This does not just apply to our native honeybees but also to the 254 other species of bee (both social and solitary) in the United Kingdom.

According to Professor Dave Goulson, trustee of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust at the University of Stirling in Scotland, Britain once boasted 25 native bumblebee species. Three have disappeared in the last 50 years, 10 are currently “severely threatened”, and two are “are teetering on the edge of extinction and could be gone in five to ten years quite easily”. So what has changed?

There has been a massive loss of habitat due to the mechanisation of farming and the urbanisation of our landscape. The huge loss of hedgerows and wild-flower meadows especially since the second world war has decreased the range of nectar-producing plants that bees can visit. Increased use of pesticides has also been implicated in the decline of all native bee species including honeybees, solitary bees and bumbles.

Honeybees have also been adversely impacted by the introduction of the Varroa mite (sadly by ill-advised beekeepers importing bees from overseas). It is believed that the varroa mite will lead to the destruction of any wild bee colony within four years. ironically, this means honeybees can only survive in the UK with help from beekeepers.

Beekeeping has also suffered a long-term decline but there has been a resurgence of interest in recent years. It is a fascinating hobby, the more one learns about the honeybee the more one is drawn into their world.

People keep bees for many reasons. From making a living producing honey at one end to the scale to the pure pleasure of being able to study bees in a single hive at the bottom of the garden at the other. Whether you become a beekeeper or not remember there is no doubt that all bees and not just honeybees need our help to survive just as we need them to carry on pollinating our food crops.

If you are interested in keeping bees, why not visit our learn Beekeeping page.