There are around 20,000 identified species of bees but Apis Mellifera, honeybees, are the only managed insects in the world, unique in providing honey for human consumption.  The health of honeybees is often taken as an indicator of the state of our natural world.

It is part of a natural pattern that some colonies of bees won’t survive through the winter, but this year does seem to have been especially bad, in some cases, with up to half of all colonies being lost.

Photo by Iolo Penri

The weather, of course, plays a huge part in this, and signs are that it was the cold spring and summer last year, rather than the cold winter most recently, which might be to blame for poor over-winter survival rates across bee colonies. If it is an especially wet and windy spring, the queen bee may not be fertilised properly, so by the time spring comes the following year she is unable to lay eggs to bring new life to the hive and the colony dwindles out.

Plant or protect

This makes it all the more important that what honeybees remain are given every help to survive and this applies to all bees. As they fly out now they need food and lots of it.  Young bees can only grow properly if they have an adequate amount of protein in their diets and their only source of this is from the pollen in plants and flowers.

For this reason, the availability of forage – plants rich in pollen and nectar –at this time of year is crucial.  The BBKA is inviting the public to ‘plant or protect’ to celebrate World Bee Day, to plant a pollinator patch of flowers if they can, and also to plant or protect existing mature plants, especially trees.

Crab apple blossom 

A single tree can provide as much food for bees as a whole field of flowers. Pat Pegrum, Adopt a Beehive representative for the south west region, noted the impact one flowering lime tree had on her honeybees last year:

“A nearby lime tree blossomed at just the right time, and gave a massive boost to my bees giving them an especially plentiful supply of nectar, plus, of course, a good source of pollen.”

The lime or linden tree is an example of the sort of tree which sustains a huge amount of wildlife, but which is intensely disliked by town planners because it can leave a sticky residue underneath when it flowers.

Unfortunately, many town councils and developers would rather not plant or maintain the type of trees which bear fruit or large quantities of nectar or pollen because of the perceived ‘slip hazard’ they can create or the cost of pruning. However, these are exactly the type of tress which help bees and wildlife need to thrive:

Margaret Wilson Chairman of the BBKA said:

“A small fruit tree like the crab apple has beautiful blossom at this time of year which is a joy for us to look at. Its flowers provide excellent nourishment for bees, and then in winter it has a crop of berries which can be life-savers for wild birds.  Planting more of the right kind of tree could make a huge difference to all wildlife, not just honeybees.”

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World Bee Day

The UN general assembly introduced World Bee Day after adopting a resolution proposed by Slovenia, where the Carniolan honeybee is native.

World Bee Day is supported by all UN Member States and the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations. Its aim is to raise public awareness about the importance of bees, highlighting how the beekeeping sector helps in a global sense in such matters as poverty alleviation, preserving a healthy environment and in maintaining biodiversity.

The lime tree, Tilia

The lime or linden tree is a symbol of the Slovenian nation.  Honey from honeybees which have been feeding on lime flower has an especially delicate, floral flavour. 

Adopt a Beehive

This is the BBKA’s charitable scheme, where members of the public follow in the life of a beekeeper and their beehives over a course of a year, chosen from one of ten regions across the UK.  Sponsored by Burts Bees, all beekeepers taking part in the scheme are volunteers, with profits directed to environmental and research projects.

         The British Beekeepers Association                                 

For further information or interviews please contact:

Diane Roberts

Press Officer

British Beekeepers Association (BBKA)

T: 07841 625797

[email protected]

Nicky Smith

Press Officer

Adopt a Beehive from the BBKA

T: 01608 495012

[email protected]