‘Failure to protect honey bees will harm food production’

September 8, 2013

Alix Haywood

HONEY HAMPER: Alix Harwood of the Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers Association exhibits an array of honey products at the association’s marquee at the Dorchester Show. Picture by Matthew Bell



STARK MESSAGE: The steward at the beekeeping tent at the Dorchester Show spells out the need to act to look after existing hives of honey bees.


HOME owners can do a lot to help honey bees thrive to ensure their long-term future as to ignore this problem could have dire consequences for humanity.

The Dorchester and Weymouth branch of the Dorset Beekeepers Association made these forthright comments to make sure that everyone was aware of what was at stake.

A steward in the beekeeping tent told this blog: “All the wild colonies in the UK have been wiped out and now many bees have to be imported. We really must look after them otherwise food production could stop. Honey bees colonies have already dropped by 50 per cent and the human population could be in trouble if we do not act.”

The association’s marquee at the Dorchester Show featured stands making bees wax candles; others selling honey and other related products and another stand showing how products from bees are used in cosmetics.

Anyone who has a garden has been encouraged to turn their outdoor spaces – however big or small they are –  into bee-friendly habitats by planting flowers like asters and sunflowers, hollyhocks, larkspur and foxgloves.

Vegetables like peas and beans are a good source of food for bees and so too are flowering herbs – mint, rosemary and others, together with most native wildflowers.

If homeowners have space in their gardens for fruit trees and soft fruits, they are an excellent source of pollen for honey bees, as are many popular garden shrubs such as buddleia, hebe and hydrangea.

The steward added: “People who have gardens could plant friendly shrubs, single flowers and natural flowers. Bees can’t get into the open flowers to get the nectar and pollen. Something like ordinary cherry trees are natural and ideal.”

As well as outside gardens, local authority open spaces could place hanging baskets in strategic places and communal areas like parks could become more attractive to bees if they plant more wildflower meadows and re-establish meadows in rural areas; encourage farmers and landowners to regenerate field margins on in the countryside.

Pollen carries the male spores of flowers. It is fine, powdery, sticky and has complex structures. The bees gather it from flowers, carrying it in their pollen baskets and store in the combs of their hives. Pollen is the only source of a bee colony.

“Swarming is a natural process and one by which colonies of honey bees increase their numbers. Therefore, if you see a swarm, contact your local authority or the police – who will in turn make contact with a local beekeeper and ask them to collect the swarm.”

The Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers Association does run courses and more information and contact details can be found on their website.

The steward added: “We have 100 members covering a wide range of age and experience. In the last few years there has been more interest shown locally in what we are doing. We do run courses for people and we can take it from there.”

  • A FACT that some readers may not be aware of is that honey brought from overseas can contain spores and bacteria that can be harmful to domestic hives. Do not leave empty honey jars to feed honey bees to feed on any remaining honey as a possibility – however remote – that the itinerant bee could inadvertently infect the rest of that colony and kill it off. Always wash out honey jars and recycle or dispose of them carefully.
  • GRAHAM Royle, Robin Dean and Dr Juliet Osborne will be speaking at the Dorset Beekeeping Convention at Stratton Village Hall on Sunday 6 October from 9.30am to 4.15pm.
  • PEOPLE who aren’t beekeepers can help the campaign by too ‘Adopting a Beehive’. They can receive regular updates from an adopted beekeeper and receive a welcome pack of a jar of honey; a pack of pollinator-friendly Habitat Aid wildflower seeds and a pocket guide to the honey bee. For more information click on the link above in this paragraph.

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