Defra steps up probe into honeybee wipeout
UK hives hit hard
The Department for Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced it is giving "higher priority" to the investigation of bee fatalities following "early signs of significant colony losses across the country".
Defra has mobilised inspectors from the National Bee Unit (NBU) to probe this year's losses, which it admits have "no obvious explanation" such as "poor husbandry or varroa [mite]" - two factors fingered for losses in 2007.
Defra makes no direct reference to Colony Collapse Disorder - the unexplained disappearance of millions of honeybees which has hit hives across the world - but significantly notes that samples of dead bees collected last year "indicated high levels of the parasite Nosema spp coupled with virus (particularly chronic bee paralysis virus)".
In April 2007, US scientists identified the single-celled fungus Nosema ceranae in dead bees from hives in California, leading them to identify it as a possible major contributory factor in CCD. They did, however, describe the findings as "highly preliminary".
Defra, meanwhile, suggests other factors may too have contributed to the sorry state of UK bees. It explains: "The position this year may be different given that the wet weather experienced in summer 2007 meant that bees were confined to their hives for long periods and were therefore unable to forage for sufficient nectar and pollen to sustain them over winter.
"The poor spring we've experienced also extended the bees confinement. This additional stress is likely to have provided the opportunity for pathogen spread, virus levels to build up and Nosema, where it was present, to have a greater impact."
Defra is currently conducting a consultation (pdf) designed as a first step in formulating a long-term strategy to protect the UK's honeybees. In March, apiarists warned that without drastic action, British populations would be extinct within ten years. ®
The British Beekeepers Association has an e-petition designed to prompt the government into action, which you can sign here.
I am a beekeeper...
...and at our association's apiary, we have lost 15 colonies out of 25 this year - there is definitely a problem and the sooner we find out what it is, the better.
Might I also point out that this article refers to the Western Honeybee (Apis Mellifera) as opposed to the Bumblebee (Bombus)?
There are several other species of bee in the UK, but these are solitary species who live and work alone.
Whilst bumblebees are much better pollinaters than honeybees as far as the individual goes, a typical honeybee colony numbers in the tens of thousands of individual bees, whereas a typical bumblebee colony has merely a few hundred individuals.
Additionally, whilst they look similar and are distantly related, wasps are NOT bees and do absolutely nothing for pollination.
Defra knew about this issue ages ago, sat back and did absolutely nothing. There was a group of people trying to convince Defra to act and spend a few million quid into researching the issue ( it affects the food chain!!) but Defra stayed completely silent. A few measely million, that's all.
Now, they've decided to act. 10 years and our Bee population will be wiped out, you can't sit around for many months doing nothing when you've got such a short timescale!
E Petition website
Love the fact the Government's petition website is in still in beta test, since November 2006 ! Just how much time do they need to test a website?
Usual government incompetence. Lack of procedures and execution of them.