As part of its new National Honey Monitoring Scheme, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is asking amateur and professional beekeepers to send in honey samples for comprehensive analysis using advanced techniques, including DNA barcoding and mass spectrometry.

Using these techniques, CEH scientists will identify the types of pollen and pesticide residues present in the honey samples, as well as some of the diseases that bees are exposed to.

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is looking initially for about 600 beekeepers to sign up to the National Honey Monitoring Scheme in the first year, with more in future years, providing samples twice a year.

Weather is a decisive factor in honey production but urban development, agricultural impacts including the widespread loss of wild flowers and pesticide use, plus climate change and an increase in disease are believed to impact negatively on both wild and managed bees and their productivity. Previous research by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology has already shown that in certain circumstances exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides can have negative effects on honeybees and wild bees.

Pam Hunter, manager of research at the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), which is backing CEH’s scheme, said: “The National Honey Monitoring Scheme is a valuable contribution to assessing changes in the crops in the countryside.

“This study will enable CEH to assess the levels of pesticides present in honey from diverse areas. The more beekeepers who take part, the more valuable their results will be.”

CEH scientists want to create an archive containing hundreds of samples of from every region and type of habitat and landscape in the country.

Professor Richard Pywell, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, who is leading the National Honey Monitoring Scheme, said: “The vulnerability of honeybees to the way we manage land in the UK has long been a cause for concern, but it is this sensitivity that makes them potentially really important for monitoring long-term changes to the condition and health of the countryside.


“We want to work with UK beekeepers to understand where in the countryside bees have lots of crop and wildflowers to feed upon, and where they are forced to feed on only a few plant species. Similarly, we want to know what pesticides they are exposed to and where this is occurring

“This information will help us understand some of the factors affecting the size and health of honeybee populations, and ultimately honey yields. It will also inform the way we might manage the countryside in future to support honeybees and wild pollinators, for example which wildflowers and crops we might plant to augment bee diets.

For details about the National Honey Monitoring Scheme and to sign up to provide samples, see https://honey-monitoring.ac.uk