The Ecological Implications of Declining Honeybee Populations
The decline in honeybee populations in recent years has both beekeepers and governments across the world confused and concerned. A few years ago the news (particularly in the USA) was full of stories about CCD or colony collapse disorder, although whatever you wish to call it here in the UK, there are definitely less wild honeybee colonies around than there were in the past.
The implications to national and international economies is huge, as honeybees are said to account for approximately a third of crop pollination in the UK, the remainder is either by other species of bees, other insects or wind. Whilst beekeepers are still operating both on a hobby and commercial level the challenges are becoming increasingly difficult.
The introduction of the Varroa mite is thought to play a major part in the decrease, as they live on the bees and whilst they are parasitic and suck the bees blood, they do not do much significant damage themselves, however, they do spread diseases throughout the colony, the diseases they spread vary from dysentery to others which can give the bees deformed wings (so they are unable to fly) or a number of others with differing levels of damage to the colony.
On top of this, the Asian Hornet is working it’s way across Europe too, they are becoming quite a problem in some warmer countries as they can decimate an entire hive in around 24 hours, so if they find an apiary site could wipe out several hives by the time the beekeeper realises and is able to take action, although there isn’t much they can do, other than moving the hives to a new location, which may not always be practical.
So what can we all do to help the UK’s honeybee population, our supplies of natural local honey and potentially the worlds food supplies? If everyone planted a few bee friendly plants in their garden, especially those which flower around June when there are very few wild flowers for the bees to forage on, that would be a great start. Also if you ever see a swarm, contact a local beekeeper, they have a network of people who do swarm collection all around the country, as they will house and treat them for any disease, whereas if they are left in the wild, their chances of survival are much more limited. Like so many environmental issues, if everyone just does something small, it will make a huge difference.