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Thursday, October 08, 2009


Where is the time going?

There are a few wildlife stories I want to bring to your attention so as I saw one around Dad's a few hours ago lets talk Bees.

As we are all aware the numbers of bees in the UK has fallen greatly over the past years. This has led to fruit growers to import thousands of hives each year to help pollinate crops.

Professor David Goulson, director of the British Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said huge bumblebee factories have sprung up in Europe and estimates more than half the fruit farms in Scotland now bring in bumblebee hives from overseas.

As well as introducing diseases among native bees, he fears they could be beating them to pollen stores and diluting breeding lines by creating hybrids.

Professor Goulson also said

Farmers growing raspberries and strawberries think there aren't enough wild bees to pollinate their crops. Whether it's good marketing on behalf of the people that sell them, or whether bee levels are so bad that farmers need to buy them in, we don't know.

He suggests the £50-100 it costs for each foreign hive would be better spent on planting rows of wildflowers to attract the bumblebees that belong here.

Fruit farmer Ross Mitchell said

Bumblebees are vital to what we do, but the native bees just aren’t around in enough numbers in the early part of the season.

We buy in hives from places like Holland and release about 100 bumblebees at a time into the polytunnels.

He rejected suggestions that the foreign bumblebees were spreading disease.

Ours go straight into the tunnels and they’re in there for about seven or eight weeks before they die naturally, and then at the beginning of July the native bees take over.

We’ve been using them for a while. A lot of places like ours couldn’t do without them.

Although its illegal to release non-native insects the foreign bees are a sub-species of the British variety, thus there is a grey area over their status.

As an aside

Steps are being taken to try to protect a honeybee that has lived on the remote Scottish island of Colonsay for thousands of years.

There are fears that Apis mellifera mellifera (a strain of the native black bee) could interbreed with other species, forming hybrids.

Beekeepers say the bee is hardier than other species meaning it is active in windier and cooler weather.

Scottish Natural Heritage has looked into protecting the bee under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, used to protect native red deer in the Outer Hebrides from hybridisation with Sika deer. However, honeybees are not classed as wild animals.

Efforts are being made to protect it using alternative legislation.

I didn't realist that Honeybees aren't classed as wild animals did you?


holdingmoments said...

Interesting post Pete.
I watched a programme on BBC-I player a while ago, and it's still a mystery as to what's causing the decline in bees; seems to be a global problem.

Liz said...

Very interesting post Pete, I have to admit I was surprised to hear Bees aren't classed as wild animals...

I can't speak for everyone and being *relatively* young still I haven't actually noticed any decline in Bee numbers, my garden is still buzzing with them... Yes they are now slowing down and I'm regularly seeing them on my wall sunbathing to warm up again.

I do know though, without the Bee's/Hoverflies the garden feels dead and I would be most upset if they were to all disappear so I'll continue to mainly buy plants purely to attract them :)

Tricia said...

Is there any research being undertaken to find out why our bee numbers are reducing I wonder?

Whether or not introducing "foreign" bees to pollinate crops for commercial reasons is necessary I can't say but, for the reasons stated, if they are putting our "own" bees in jeopardy, this could do more harm than good!

Let's have more wildflowers and efforts made to increase our own bee numbers - hopefully!!

Dorothea said...

"Is there any research ...?"


They've even come up with some theories.

oldcrow61 said...

Why oh why do humans fool around with nature. It always seems to end in a mess.