I recently read a ludicrous article on BBC News, “Can Listening to Bees help save them – and us?” which continues the campaign of mis-information about honey bees. I used to think that this type of report, of which there are many, was just lazy reporting but now I am beginning to suspect a deliberate attempt to distort the truth. The generally accepted and widespread myth, reported so frequently that it is blindly accepted as true by most people, is that honey bees are in rapid decline and unless urgent action is taken immediately we are all doomed. I wonder who benefits from this lie and what they hope to gain by perpetuating it?
I tried to give a more balanced perspective in this post.
The BBC article in question states, “In the UK, for instance, the number of honey bees fell by 54% between 1985 and 2005.” OK, so if I do a quick internet search using the most popular search engine with the search term “data on number of honey bees in the uk” the first thing that comes up, top of the list, is a debate pack from the House of Commons Library called The UK Bee Population, which was produced in November 2017 ahead of a parliamentary debate on the subject. I’m only concerning myself with honey bees, not wild bees, although this paper covers both. On page two in the Summary we find these two points:
- The trends for managed bees are better. Their numbers in the UK are recovering from large losses due to the Varroa mite in the early 1990s.
- In 2013, over 29,000 beekeepers managing around 126,000 colonies were registered in England on the National Bee Unit’s BeeBase database, compared with 15,000 beekeepers managing just under 80,000 colonies in 2008 [edit: that’s an increase of 57.5% since 2008]
A European report in 2015 shows numbers of hives in the UK, not just those registered on BeeBase in England, and that number is 274,000. It also shows how much world production of honey has increased; a steady rise since 1961 apart from a flat period in the early 1990’s due to the arrival of varroa mites, and how the number of hives across the EU has risen rapidly over the last decade.
I have travelled to meet commercial beekeepers in North America, New Zealand, France and the UK and guess what? They say that they are facing challenges but that their bees are doing very well and they do not recognise the picture painted by the harbingers of doom.
I fully support any initiatives to help both honey bees and all pollinators, especially increasing the amount of habitat suitable for them to thrive. I am not saying that we don’t have problems, especially with wild bees and other pollinators, but PLEASE don’t listen to the hogwash about honey bees being on the edge of extinction!