Are There Too Many Bees In London? – Comments From Angela Woods, Secretary of the London Beekeepers’ Association

I was surprised and pleased to receive comments from Angela Woods, Secretary of the London Beekeepers’ Association, on my recent posts concerning this important issue.  I’ve set forth her comments below in their entirety.

Angela Woods, Secretary of the London Beekeepers’ Association

Many thanks to Ms. Woods for providing us with additional information on a subject which will likely become controversial in other urban areas.

This is an interesting perspective on the current thinking of experts such as the LBKA, University of Sussex research fellows and the Friends of the Earth who are behind the Bee Cause campaign. Data suggests that 1 sq km of forage can sustain about 5 colonies. Consider that only 25% of that space in London is green and then how much within that is planted in a way that is beneficial to bees. Within a 10 sq km area of my apiary in NW5 which is fifteen minutes from Oxford Circus the NBU has 466 apiaries listed. There will be at least two or three hives at each so that totals a possible 1398 colonies. Only 75% of people register their hives so you can increase this figure by 25% = 1747 hives which equals 174 hives per sq km which is way, way higher than the 5 we think can be sustained. Steve Bebow is right that the weather has played its part this year but the underlying trend, regardless of weather, is that honey yields are decreasing below the level that bees need to get themselves through the winter … an all time low in 2010 of 31lbs per hive across the SE and bees need 35 lbs just to survive the cold months. NBU Bee Inspector’s have been saying for some years now that they think there are too many bees in London. Steve’s reaction is emotional rather than factual and very common amongst bee keepers who make a living from keeping bees for corporates. “Saving bees” does not necessarily mean keeping bees and those that choose to do so will get the support of the LBKA since we have a strong ethos of responsible bee keeping. The LBKA has a message of education, encouraging more forage and not keeping bees on rooftops higher than a tree. They have not evolved to live at heights unnatural to them. The tide may be turning though as corporates begin to understand that piling more bees into Central London may be contributing to the demise of the bee and other pollinating insects who suffer in the competition for nectar and pollen.

London Tonight reported on this back in April which you can view here

Angela Woods
LBKA Secretary

10 thoughts on “Are There Too Many Bees In London? – Comments From Angela Woods, Secretary of the London Beekeepers’ Association

  1. Emily Heath says:

    Fantastic! Great to hear from Angela.

  2. Jude Earl says:

    The arguments put forward by LBKA are flawed – and in some instances totally wrong. In particular :

    – The National Bee Unit shows 466 apiaries within a 10km radius of NW5. This is 314 square km …very different from the 10 sq km stated.
    – According to London Ecology Unit Data 66% of London is occupied by green spaces and water …of this 22% is private gardens, 22% parks and sports facilities and 22% other habitats inc grassland woods cemeteries canal banks and railway embankments and water
    – Even if a generous 22% is discounted as having no potential use for forage –eg waterways sports fields – then there would still be 44% of Greater London’s 1583 square km as potential forage. This doesn’t take into account street trees which provide nectar pollen and honeydew. In 2009 the BBKA stated that 4 or 5 large trees can provide as much forage for bees as an acre of wild flower meadow.

    – These figures date back to 2000 and although there has been a loss of green space in some areas it seems unlikely there’s been a significant overall change and in some areas …notably the establishment of the Thames Chase woodland ( where 1.6 million trees are to be planted as mixed woodland) there has been a large increase. There has also been increased awareness of bees and the necessity to plant “ bee friendly” plants in parks and gardens.

    – The figures given for honey production of 31lbs per hive (this was the 2011 figure not 2010) is for surplus honey taken from the hive ( the honey left on the hive for the bees is not counted ). This was an average yield over the whole of the South East region which covers all of Sussex Kent and Surrey as well as Greater London …so it seems unlikely that lack of forage alone was to blame for low yields. The South East Regional Bee Inspector put the low yield down to the drought conditions which prevented nectar flow. In Cumbria the yield for 2011 was down to 15-25 lbs per hive and there was a similar pattern in other areas of the country.

    – Whilst there may be too many bees and not enough forage in London the arguments put forward so far seem to be low on correct and reliable facts and high on emotive arguments

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  5. Angela Woods says:

    The diversity of opinion is most welcome. One of the problems is that the data is incomplete. The National Bee Unit has data but it does not diseminate or analyse it in a way that gives a clear idea of what might be going on in London. This is why the LBKA, uniquely placed with its 300 members, has agreed to hook up with respected research fellows in this field to survey our members annually so that we can get a clearer picture and help advise on how the welfare of all pollinating insects can be best preserved.

    Angela Woods

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