UK: Beekeepers urge efforts to plant for pollinators

Results of the British Beekeepers Association’s annual Honey Survey show that the honey crop improved by a third this year - to nearly 14 kilos (30lbs) of honey per hive on average across England and Wales.

Although a honey crop of 30lbs per colony would have been considered small compared to yields a few decades ago, beekeepers are noting some new and very encouraging farming practices, which could be good for honeybees and pollinators of all kinds.

Professor John Hobrough, the BBKA’s Adopt a Beehive representative for the north east, who was awarded his BBKA certificate for sixty years of beekeeping in 2016, said:

“A local farmer, David Park, planted Phacelia or purple tansy, near my apiary and the results astounded me. Phacelia is used as green manure to help improve the soil. It’s one of the top ten nectar producers for honeybees." 

"Once it flowered, my honeybees had a fantastic time, with my three strong colonies making over 230lbs of honey within the month.”

David, of Buston Barns, Warkworth (pictured below, left, with John and Margaret Hobrough and BBC Breakfast presenter, Graham Satchell) has planted over 36 hectares of Phacelia this season, along with Operation Pollinator Annual Wildflower Mix.

Image from David Park Twitter account: @wdp52

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, David highlighted the flowers have been a buzz with honey bees all season, but that it has also full of other pollinators too. He grows around 100 ha of potatoes, along with 400 ha of combinable cropping, including oilseed rape and cereals.

“It has further reinforced that we can farm productively on our arable cropping, whilst also providing important habitats for pollinating insects and extending wider farm biodiversity,” he pointed out. 

Sympathetic agricultural and gardening practices and planting are crucial for the future of honey bees, pollinating insects of all kinds, and the birds which feed on them, according to the BBKA.

In the survey of members, 88% urged that planting more nectar and pollen producing flowers, shrubs or trees would be the best way to help honey bees and pollinating insects.

Margaret Wilson, Chairman of the BBKA added: “Honey bees and all our wild creatures need food to eat and that can only come from what we plant and grow, so gardening and agricultural practices are incredibly important.”

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