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.
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