The results of the British Beekeepers Association’s annual Honey Survey reveal that the average beekeeper in England produced 23.8 lbs (10.8 kilos) of honey this year – a decrease of 2.3 lbs over last year’s crop.

The two most productive regions in England continue to be the South East, producing 30.1 lbs of honey and the East with 29.3 lbs of honey per hive, while those areas which suffered a particularly wet summer, Wales and the South West, both saw their honey crop drop to 18 lbs per hive.

Britain differs from the rest of Europe in that most of its beekeeping is carried out by amateur beekeepers, whereas in much of the rest of Europe it is carried out by bee farmers. In common with the EU as whole,  Britain does not produce enough honey to meet demand. 

Beekeeper for 60 years 

“A honey crop of fifty to a hundred pounds was typical when I started beekeeping in the 1950’s,” said John Hobrough who was recently awarded his BBKA certificate for sixty years of beekeeping and is the BBKA’s Adopt a Beehive representative for the North East region. 

He continues:

“In those days farmers under-planted crops with clover to nourish the land, nowadays there just isn’t time or space for this style of farming. I think it is having a huge impact on the honey crop, by reducing the forage available not just to honey bees, but all our insects.  

“I warn new beekeepers not to expect a big crop of honey, and to be fair many people aren’t in it nowadays for the honey.”

Worrying decline 

While weather conditions will always cause variations in the honey crop, for example the cold winter of 2014 saw the honey crop drop to just 8lb a colony, it is the steady overall decline in quantity which is worrying.  

Beekeeper survey 

The top five factors worrying beekeepers about the future of the honey bees are:

  • use of pesticides including neonicotinoids 62%;
  • loss of forage from agricultural development 31%;
  • Asian hornet 32%;
  • Varroa mite 28%’
  • climate change 28%.

Gardening style counts

Margaret Murdin, BBKA Chairman, concludes:

“Everyone can play a part in helping honey bees and all the other insects they love such as butterflies and bumble bees by planting the right sort of flowers and shrubs. Check the label to see that anything you plant will be rich in nectar and pollen, as not all plants are equal in this respect. A crocus is so much better for bees than a daffodil, for example. 

“Our survey shows that suburban gardens and urban roof tops produce some of the best honey crops, so how we garden really can make a difference.”                         -ends-