BEEDEVILLED

The great honey drought

Winter viruses and the wettest August for years have combined to leave Britain’s beehives dry

In 26 years of beekeeping, Ged Marshall has never seen anything as bad as the 2008 honey harvest. A miserable summer that has confined his bees to their hives following a winter bedevilled by deadly viruses means that production this year will be barely a third of its usual level of around five tonnes of honey.

Unfortunately for the nation’s honey lovers and apiarists, Mr Marshall’s experience is far from unique. According to the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA), up to a third of Britain’s 240,000 hives failed to survive last winter and spring due to disease and poor weather. The result is a drop of more than 50 per cent in honey production across the country.

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We were talking the other day about bees.  Especially since this year we’ve received so many calls, emails seen dozens of local Craigslist postings asking folks to take and find home for bees that have swarmed into their homes and neighborhoods.

Wondering why the recent resurgence in city bee sightings.  If bees are dying and plagued with CCD how is it that the presence of bees here in the city have exploded.

Farmer D, being a long time beekeeper, came up with a pretty simple and logical (possible — stress possible) explanation.  With most of the bees being raised in rural areas where mono (chemical) agriculture is prevalent their diet is restricted and they are more susceptible to disease.  He explains “what if a human were restricted to eating just one thing – even if it were good, you would be missing certainly vital elements for a healthy life.”  Makes sense.  They why the explosion of bees in the city?  Farmer D went on to say, “Just like when bears or wildlife are forced into the urban areas looking for food, the cities are now a refuge for bees providing them with a variety of flora in which to feed.”  Ah, there’s that key word – variety or diversity.

Of course, no one can really know for certain.  With observation of your surroundings, one can only ask why and take a educated guess.

Perhaps our cities are the next honey meccas and bee refuges?  Now urbanites more than ever should concern themselves with the basics.  It’s all about the birds and the bees.  Planting gardens that encourage our winged friends.

Here on the urban homestead our parkway strip is a beneficial border that attracts all sorts of wildlife – bees, butterflies, birds, lady bugs and praying mati.  Throughout the entire garden are plants that attract bees like african blue basil, echinacea, mints, golden rod and more.

Let’s hear from you -have you noticed an increase or decrease in bee populations in your area.  Shout out bee sightings!

Comments(24)

  1. Holly says:

    I have two marigold plants at the corner of my two square foot beds. Every time I go out to check the garden there is a bee or two on the marigolds. I was watching one the other day float from one flower to the next looking for nectar.

  2. Holly says:

    I have two marigold plants at the corner of my two square foot beds. Every time I go out to check the garden there is a bee or two on the marigolds. I was watching one the other day float from one flower to the next looking for nectar.

  3. P~ says:

    I think your dad is right on! I have read about urban beekeepers in Paris having the same observations. They have done studies that I believe come to the same conclusions.
    Good post!
    P~

  4. P~ says:

    I think your dad is right on! I have read about urban beekeepers in Paris having the same observations. They have done studies that I believe come to the same conclusions.
    Good post!
    P~

  5. katecontinued says:

    Just this morning I saw dozens and dozens (if not hundreds) of bees at my son’s bottle brush tree. I think Jules makes some real sense with his theory.

  6. katecontinued says:

    Just this morning I saw dozens and dozens (if not hundreds) of bees at my son’s bottle brush tree. I think Jules makes some real sense with his theory.

  7. Nikki says:

    Yes! Here at the Pikes Peak Beekeepers Association the guys who is in charge of collecting the swarms that people call in to complain about says he “only” has 38(!) swarms left to capture!!! When people ask him about the general decrease in bees he laughs and says they’ve all come to Colorado! To be honest, though, the domestic bees still had a bad year production wise.

    I thoroughly enjoy your site. I am in the city too! People think I’m funny that I keep chickens and bees, but they all love my garden come harvest time (we only have one harvest because our growing season is so short, only about 140 from frost to frost!)

  8. Nikki says:

    Yes! Here at the Pikes Peak Beekeepers Association the guys who is in charge of collecting the swarms that people call in to complain about says he “only” has 38(!) swarms left to capture!!! When people ask him about the general decrease in bees he laughs and says they’ve all come to Colorado! To be honest, though, the domestic bees still had a bad year production wise.

    I thoroughly enjoy your site. I am in the city too! People think I’m funny that I keep chickens and bees, but they all love my garden come harvest time (we only have one harvest because our growing season is so short, only about 140 from frost to frost!)

  9. Fern says:

    Lots of bees here east of DC. But I had many more ‘bee attracting’ bloomers this year, so it’s not a fair comparison. They all disappeared when the thistle, mint, and oregano stopped blooming.

  10. Fern says:

    Lots of bees here east of DC. But I had many more ‘bee attracting’ bloomers this year, so it’s not a fair comparison. They all disappeared when the thistle, mint, and oregano stopped blooming.

  11. rd says:

    I live on the edge of a small (<2000 people) town in Oregon. I have read about the bee shortages last year and this, but have noticed no differences here. Lots of bees here, as usual, but no more than any other year.

  12. rd says:

    I live on the edge of a small (<2000 people) town in Oregon. I have read about the bee shortages last year and this, but have noticed no differences here. Lots of bees here, as usual, but no more than any other year.

  13. Sinfonian says:

    I have definitely seen a drastic reduction of bees of all sorts. I think I’ve seen a dozen honey bees this year, and until most recently I’ve had a 2 month drought of bumble bees that did the majority of my pollination this year.

    Wasps however, I’ve seen… As if CCD wasn’t bad enough, the wasps are finishing the job. /sigh

  14. Sinfonian says:

    I have definitely seen a drastic reduction of bees of all sorts. I think I’ve seen a dozen honey bees this year, and until most recently I’ve had a 2 month drought of bumble bees that did the majority of my pollination this year.

    Wasps however, I’ve seen… As if CCD wasn’t bad enough, the wasps are finishing the job. /sigh

  15. po says:

    Welcome back bees to the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio! I have noticed a dramatic increase in bees this year. They were loving my squash planted in 5 gallon buckets. Last year there were very little bees around. This larger bee population was a blessing. We had a cool summer this year.

  16. po says:

    Welcome back bees to the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio! I have noticed a dramatic increase in bees this year. They were loving my squash planted in 5 gallon buckets. Last year there were very little bees around. This larger bee population was a blessing. We had a cool summer this year.

  17. KK says:

    I’ve noticed less bees in years past, except for a large amount of carpenter bees that were doing the majority of the pollinating in my veggie garden. But as I’ve let more things go to seed, I’ve noticed more beneficial wasps and pollinating beneficial flies all over the place! This year, it seems as though the honey bee populaion came back (they adore my garlic chive flowers) and that may be due to less of the carpenter bees this year(they’re intimidating and a little aggressive). But I think Farmer D is probably on to a good theory, and it is worth studying, and encourage urbanites to keep bees.

  18. KK says:

    I’ve noticed less bees in years past, except for a large amount of carpenter bees that were doing the majority of the pollinating in my veggie garden. But as I’ve let more things go to seed, I’ve noticed more beneficial wasps and pollinating beneficial flies all over the place! This year, it seems as though the honey bee populaion came back (they adore my garlic chive flowers) and that may be due to less of the carpenter bees this year(they’re intimidating and a little aggressive). But I think Farmer D is probably on to a good theory, and it is worth studying, and encourage urbanites to keep bees.

  19. Janice says:

    I was telling SoCalDan that we have TONS of bees;”btw, we have sooo many bees buzzing around since we have lots of day flowers, buckwheat and “Red Apple” (APTENIA CORDIFOLIA) as ground cover” The bees also love our Chinese Chive flowers. We are in Hacienda Heigths, CA. Suburbs/city. Frito-Lay and Tropicana(orange juice) are about 3 miles from us. Industrial Corporations all around.

  20. Janice says:

    I was telling SoCalDan that we have TONS of bees;”btw, we have sooo many bees buzzing around since we have lots of day flowers, buckwheat and “Red Apple” (APTENIA CORDIFOLIA) as ground cover” The bees also love our Chinese Chive flowers. We are in Hacienda Heigths, CA. Suburbs/city. Frito-Lay and Tropicana(orange juice) are about 3 miles from us. Industrial Corporations all around.

  21. Jude says:

    Here in my Baltimore, MD backyard, the bees are buzzing away, along with butterflies, moths and several species of birds I’ve not seen before. Yellow finches seem especially fond of the dried echinacea flowers, and hummingbirds drink from the nastursiums. The prize attractor in my yard seems to be the Mexican Hyssop, which grew to almost five feet high this year and easily as wide.

  22. Jude says:

    Here in my Baltimore, MD backyard, the bees are buzzing away, along with butterflies, moths and several species of birds I’ve not seen before. Yellow finches seem especially fond of the dried echinacea flowers, and hummingbirds drink from the nastursiums. The prize attractor in my yard seems to be the Mexican Hyssop, which grew to almost five feet high this year and easily as wide.

  23. PhoenixJen says:

    Here in the Phoenix heat island (as if normal Phx heat wasn’t bad enough!) I’ve had a TON of bees – all are native solitary types – not swarming. Not only do I have lots of crops and flowers that attract the bees but also some homemade bee blocks they enjoy.

    When I go out to harvest squash blossoms (yummy) early in the morning, I often have to shoo off some carpenter bees nestled in the centers.

    I too have noticed an increase in butterflies, wasps and flies pollinating things – I’m sure they were there before but I just wasn’t paying attention before. It seems like no plant in the yard is without a pollinator at any given time. Yay pollinators!

    PhoenixJen

  24. PhoenixJen says:

    Here in the Phoenix heat island (as if normal Phx heat wasn’t bad enough!) I’ve had a TON of bees – all are native solitary types – not swarming. Not only do I have lots of crops and flowers that attract the bees but also some homemade bee blocks they enjoy.

    When I go out to harvest squash blossoms (yummy) early in the morning, I often have to shoo off some carpenter bees nestled in the centers.

    I too have noticed an increase in butterflies, wasps and flies pollinating things – I’m sure they were there before but I just wasn’t paying attention before. It seems like no plant in the yard is without a pollinator at any given time. Yay pollinators!

    PhoenixJen

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