Big fall in British bee population

Nearly a fifth of the UK’s honeybee colonies died last winter, figures from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) reveal today.

The figure is an improvement on the previous year when almost a third of hives failed to survive the winter, but it is double “acceptable” levels, the BBKA’s president Tim Lovett warned. Across the country an average of 19.2 per cent of colonies died over the winter, with the highest losses in the north of England, where 32.1 per cent perished, and the lowest in the east of England, where 12.8 per cent did not survive.

According to the BBKA, the cold winter encouraged the bees to “cluster”, helping them to survive, while good weather in early spring enabled them to forage for nectar and pollen. The association also believes beekeepers took more care to feed colonies to stop them starving. The BBKA attributed the “continuing high level of colony loss” to diseases.

Bees are estimated to be worth around £200m to the UK economy each year as they pollinate many of the crops grown here. Pesticide use and changesin agriculture and climate have also been blamed for their decline.