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British Beekeepers Association
24th May 2010

WINTER SURVEY 2009/10

BEEKEEPERS FIGHT BACK TO ENSURE HONEY BEE'S SURVIVAL

The British Beekeepers’ Association announced today, 24 May, the first results from  its 2009-10 winter colony survival survey* which shows that more than 80% of honey bee colonies made it through one of the harshest winters in 30 years.  

The survey also reveals the efforts that beekeepers are making to rebuild bee stocks with the average number of colonies per beekeeper in the survey rising from 3.7 in 2007 to 4.7 in 2009.

The figures* show a national loss of 17.3 per cent but with substantial regional variations.  Highest losses of 26 per cent were recorded in the north of England, and lowest losses of 12.8 per cent were recorded in the south west of England.

The number of hives increasing over the same period rises from an estimated 

40, 000 to more than 80,000, and with the number of honey bees rising from  23 billion to 48 billion.**

Martin Smith, BBKA President, said:“This year’s losses show a small and encouraging  improvement on the 19.2 per cent losses of 2008-09 and are much better than the disastrous 30.1 per cent revealed by the 2007-08 survey.

“It shows that our honey bees are slowly  moving out of intensive care but they are still not healthy  enough. 

“Winter losses between 7 – 10 per cent are acceptable. The current rate is not and neither are the vast regional  differences. Yet there is still no answer to what is causing the losses. Disease, bad weather and poor nutrition due to habitat loss are the prime suspects.  

 “British beekeepers are having to work even harder at this time of year to replace their missing colonies to keep the stream of honey flowing and more vitally  to maintain the ‘pollination army’  on which we depend for so much of our food , and the beauty of our countryside.

“For the welcome increase in the numbers of honey bees to be sustainable further research into the causes of the losses remains critical.”

A beekeeping renaissance has been created by the BBKA’s high profile campaigning for greater investment into honey bee health research, with thousands more people taking up the craft. Membership of BBKA has grown by 20 per cent over the last 12 months from 12,500 to 17,500 reversing the historic decline in the number of beekeepers since the end of World War II. 

This increase in new beekeepers is putting more pressure on the existing beekeepers and their local associations who have historically trained the next generation while honing their own skills, and watching out for possible new exotic pests arriving in the UK too.

Martin Smith continued: “The public has responded magnificently to the plight of the honey bee by either taking-up beekeeping or by becoming ‘armchair beekeepers’ through the recently launched ‘Adopt a beehive’ fundraising campaign which is providing funding for research and beekeeper education. 

“It is not just beekeepers who can help bees to recover, everyone can play their part by continuing to plant bee friendly plants, fruit and vegetables in their window boxes, patio pots, gardens and allotments  to provide desperately needed forage."

 Adopt a Beehive, the BBKA’s first fundraising  campaign  in its 135 year history was launched on 19 March 2010 with the sponsorship of the Saga group and the support of Michelin starred chef, Raymond Blanc.  www.adoptabeehive.co.uk