Why we need Bees

Everyone needs bees. One third of the food we eat wouldn't be available if it wasn't for bees.

"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man,"
said Albert Einstein. 

In the UK about 70 crops are dependent on, or benefit from, visits from bees. In addition, bees pollinate the flowers of many plants which become part of the feed of farm animals as well as wild animals and birds.

Although honey bees were once a familiar site in the English landscape they are now fast becoming a rarity unless you are lucky enough to live near a beekeeper.

This is because there are virtually no wild colonies of honey bees left due to a loss of habitat and disease.

There was a great loss of beekeepers in the 1990's as many gave up because of the varroa mite.It used to be much easier to keep bees as they were healthy and disease free creatures.Honey and propolis (bee glue) are mildly antiseptic and so help to keep them healthy. You could look into a colony in the spring. do some quick cleaning and give them some new frames and then leave them until harvest time in late summer. Then you would prepare them for winter and the cycle would start again. However the beekeepers who did perservere learnt to cope with the parasite.

 Honey bees now only survive due to beekeepers keeping them in hives. In England, unlike other countries, most of our beekeepers are amateurs with only a few large scale professional bee farmers.

The varroa mite is a parasite that attaches itself to the adult bee and then sucks the bee blood. It also lays eggs in the cells where the bee larvae are developing which means that the young bee emerges carrying the mite. This can greatly reduce the life of the bee as well as the colony as a whole.

The varroa mite is again getting more difficult to manage as they have become resistant to some of the treatments available and can also transmit viruses. Although these viruses were always around they now have more of a hold on a colony that has already been weakened by the varroa.

However, it's not all bad news, we can, with a bit more time and skill than the beekeepers of yesteryear, keep our colonies in good order and healthy using organic substances such as oxalic and lactic acid. There has also been a resurgence of new beekeepers in the last two years which can only be good news.

Beekeeping is a fascinating and very rewarding hobby and I would encourage anybody thinking about starting to give it a go.


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