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To Save Bees Humans Must Change

April 22, 2011 in ,

According to a recent United Nations report, the potentially disastrous decline in bees, impacting the vital pollinating element in food production for the growing global population, is likely to continue unless humans dramatically change their ways. The United Nations define these “ways” as everything from insecticides to air pollution and go on to say:

“The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st centurey.” UN Environment Programme executive director Achim Steiner said “The fact is that of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of the worlds foods, more than 70 are pollinated by bees.” Read the rest of this entry →

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It was a hard Winter for honeybees

May 25, 2010 in ,

Well now we are well into Spring its time to take stock of how our bees coped with the unusually harsh Winter. It has been estimated by the British Beekeepers Association that loss of the UK honeybee population is around 17% which compares to around 19% last year the huge 30% loss between 2007-2008!! However I have heard some stories and rumours of the losses in Scotland being as high as 50% for some beeks up here. The BBKA survey did reveal marked regional variations. Beekeepers in the north of England lost more than a quarter of their honeybee colonies, while the south-west recorded the lowest losses: 12.8% of colonies between November 2009 and March 2010.

Martin Smith, the president of the BBKA, said this year’s losses showed a “small and encouraging improvement” on the previous year and are “much better” than the “disastrous” losses of three years ago. “It shows that our honeybees are slowly moving out of intensive care, but they are still not healthy enough,” he said. “Winter losses between 7-10% are acceptable.”

So definitely an improvement especially when considering we have had such a harsh Winter! Personally I think the harsh Winter will prove useful, being a Darwinian believer; these weaker bees can no longer reproduce and so any deficiencies or unwanted traits they may have had die with them.

The other great news is that mebership of the BBKA has gone up by 20%. I personally know that some of our local associations in Scotland are seeing record numbers attending their courses. Plus this website is becoming more and more popular with visits increasing each month!

The number of hives estimated to be in the UK is around 80,000 with 48 billion bees.

The US in comparison has suffered over one third of their colonies wiped out for the fourth year in a row. Not good! CCD is the main unexplained cause.

It is thought that honey bees contribute around £200million annually to the UK agricultural economy by pollinating a huge variety of crops. Its scary to think what would happen if we lost our bees!

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3D Bees! – Scanned beehive reveals bee life live in 3D

May 17, 2010 in

Entomologist Mark Greco and his colleagues at the Swiss Bee Research Centre in Bern, Switzerland and scientists at the University of Bath led by Professor Cathryn Mitchell and Dr Manuchehr Soleimani are pioneering a new way of viewing the inside of a beehive.

3D inner beehive image

3D inner beehive image


The technique is called Diagnostic Radioentomology (DR) which scans the hive taking a series of 3D images. These images create a live picture of whats going on inside the hive, meaning we can gain a greater insight into what the bees are doing behind closed doors. These live images produced by X-ray computerised tomography can also be used to track individual bees within the hive, thus allowing the tracking of the Queen, again giving a greater insight into her movements.

Mr Greco told the BBC when interviewed, “the approach is non-invasive and does not modify their normal behaviour…..We can accurately assess the number of bees and where they are at the time of scanning.”

The researchers are working to improve this new technique which will hopefully result in clearer 3D images and more accurately measure the bee population, volumes of pollen, wax and honey within a hive.

The University of Bath scientists are also working on new computer models which will hopefully allow better evaluation of parasites and pathogens affecting the hive.

“Because the method is extremely accurate, we will be looking for critical thresholds of pathogen and parasite loads and loss of food resources from which bee populations can not recover,” explained Mr Greco, who is completing his PhD thesis.

“[We will also be investigating] how pathogens such as mites, viruses, bacteria and fungi might interact, both among themselves, and with environmental pressures or stressors, to produce colony declines or collapses.”

The team hopes too that the new imaging technique might indicate what is reducing the numbers of other solitary bee species.

“Many solitary bees forage on the same floral resources to those of honeybees, some also suffer from the same pathogens, such as fungal infestations in their nests.”

The UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, together with the British government is spending £10 million on researching the population decline of bees, some of this money could be well spent on furthering these new techniques to gain greater insight into the inner-workings of beehives.

See a video of the 3D images on the BBC news website here

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Vanishing of the Bees – Film

April 8, 2010 in ,

Bees are dying in their billions!

In the UK around 1/5 of honeybee hives were lost in the Winter of 2008-2009. Bees pollinate a third of the food we eat, contributing £200 million a year to the UK economy.

The co-operative has made a film documenting the vanishing of bees in the UK and why its happening. The film is 90 mins and takes in the beekeepers point of view, aswell as farmers and scientists.

You can buy the film from Amazon by following this link:

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Scottish Government Rebuff Black Bee Nature Reserve

April 2, 2010 in ,

Doesn't Alex care about bees?

Doesn't Alex care about bees?

The Scottish Government has rebuffed a reserve for Black bees on Colonsay. The reserve was brain child of Andrew Abraham, Andrew spent years trying to secure the reserve on Colonsay only to have it Squashed by the Scottish Government early this year.

Scotland on Sunday published an article where the Scottish Government said; “the black bee is considered a domesticated creature”. This was the reason they said no to the black bee reserve! The Countryside and Wildlife act 1981 can only be used to protect and secure reserves for wild animals, as it has be used before for Red Deer on the Isles of Rum, Jura and Arran.

I find this completely insane! How can black bees be considered a domestic creature, there must be 1000’s of wild hives of black bees in Scotland!! And of course going by this idiotic thinking the Scottish Government has failed to take pro-active measures in helping our native black bee!

I urge all who disagree with the Scottish Parliments decision to write a letter of complaint and send to:

Alex Salmond MSP,
First Minister,
Scottish Parliment,
St Andrews House,
Regent Road,
Edinburgh,
EH1 3DG

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Why do people import queens?

March 14, 2010 in , ,

I just dont understand it! Why oh why get a queen from abroad? I mean what possible benefit can be gained from doing so, or is it easier to get queens from abroad? Im not sure I mean how difficult is it to phone your local beekeepers association and see what they say? Failing that a chat with local beekeepers should provide fruitful and perhaps queens can be found at no cost.

Not only that if you find a queen locally it gives you a chance to see the hive and discuss with the owner the temperament and other traits.

The Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Associations (BIBBA) are offering to help beekeepers to rear queens that are more suited to their geographical locale. The areas covered are England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

All the National BKA’s advise to source bees locally and NOT to import. The reasoning is that the bees may carry disease and pests but are also unsuited to live in the country’s weather conditions.

There are still experienced beekeepers who think that all bees are the same! This is not the case and bees can be more suited to certain weather conditions or forage availability.

So we are all in agreement that bees and their queens should be sourced locally. So the Local Queen Programme is being setup to encourage beekeepers to raise their own queen from the best thats available in their locale. Your local BKA will hopefully play a big part in this scheme and help you every step of the way.

The aim of the scheme is a pyramid system with member beekeepers in the base with them teamed with a local BKA doing the propogation of queens. It is also hoped that specialised breeding groups will form locally with a more keen interest in this area of beekeeping.

BIBBA has annouced it will help local BKAs. More info can be found on their website and lectures and tuition is available.

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A Buzz About Beekeeping…

August 15, 2009 in ,

BeesThere definitely seems to be more of a buzz about keeping honey bees! Perhaps its the economic downturn and the upsurge of people interested in allotments and growing their own food.

Obviously the honey bees plight has had a lot of publicity across the globe on TV, radio and in the press. So Im glad to see an upsurge of beekeepers especially the ones that really care for their bees, regarding them almost as pets (I wouldnt try petting them though).

My observation of new beekeepers though is that the majority are 40-50+ in age, not a bad thing at all but it would be great to see more people with young kids taking up beekeeping and getting their children involved. I think its very important to get kids involved in beekeeping and would love it if primary schools asked local beekeeping experts to come and talk about beekeeping, maybe even arrange a field trip to an apiary (would require a lot of small suits though). At worst teachers could use beekeeping as a class project.

Overall Im very happy to see so many people interested in keeping bees and perhaps pursuing a more self sufficient and less wasteful lifestyle. We just have to make sure to get young people involved and interested in bees and beekeeping.

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