If you want to help bees, plant flowers but don’t keep bees

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Honeybees

Bees are animals! I just wanted to get that out of the way because this website is about the animal-to-human relationship. People want to help bees because they have read many stories about bees struggling in the modern world because of insecticides killing them and a hostile environment.

Honeybees

Honeybees. Pixabay.

Therefore, there’s been a rising number of people keeping honeybees. Just a quick note: honeybees are a different species to wild bees. Honeybees live in colonies in a beehive whereas wild bees are often solitary. The bumblebee is seasonally social i.e. living in a colony.

What the experts are saying is that the rising number of beekeepers is depleting the amount of forage for wild bees in the urban environment. There had been a campaign encouraging people to save bees and this had resulted in “an unsustainable proliferation in urban beekeeping [which is doing] more harm than good”.

Lots of people want to help bees and they contact the London Beekeepers’ Association for advice. The chairman of the association, Richard Glassborow, said that his advice is that they should plant flowers because there is a difference between helping bees and keeping bees.

Registered hives in London have more than doubled in less than 10 years to 4,844 in 2019 compared to 2,287 in 2011. In Peckham, South London and in Barnet and Finchley in North London there are up to six times as many beehives as can be sustained by resources nearby of nectar and pollen. As there is no requirement to register hives the problem may be worse than envisaged.

Prof Phil Stevenson, a senior research leader at Kew Gardens said that in some areas of the capital there are 50 hives per square kilometre of green space. They decided that the maximum sustainable number was 7.5 hives. The wild cousin of the honeybee is struggling to compete for forage creating a problem for bee conservation as honeybees outcompete the wild species by monopolising resources.

Source: The Times.