For bee-keeping – Mark Hawkins
There are various reasons people choose to keep bees in the UK. These include; as a hobby, for conservation and for farming (honey etc). Bee farming on a large scale is mainly for the production of bee related products such as honey, bees wax and royal jelly.
Bee keeping in the UK is largely a hobby. There are commercial beekeepers, but the vast majority of them use beekeeping as part of their income and the number who rely entirely on bees is very small.
Most new beekeepers will start off with a small number of colonies to enable them to study bee behaviour and produce a small amount of honey to sell. After a few years experience some will decide to increase their stocks and go commercial. (bee keeping for profit, “farming”). During recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the important service bees and other beneficial pollinating insects provide by pollinating many agricultural and horticultural crops as well as wild flora.
**The value of honey bees as a pollinator far outweighs their value as honey producers and the UKs crop pollination industry has an estimated value that is greater than £400million every year**
Here at BFoE, we have had 2 bee hives installed in Digbeth community garden for around 18 months now. We are keeping bees as we feel they are beneficial to the local area as their numbers, especially in our cities, have been on the decline for many years now. Our 2 colonies prove that bees can thrive in our cities and can live happily alongside humans. Our community garden shows how beneficial they can be as pollinators with an abundance of budhlia and other flowers and herbs and the wild flowers all along the railway line to Moor street station.
This is the first full year we have had our hives and we have harvested the honey (leaving plenty in the hives to sustain the colonies over the winter). This wasn’t our incentive behind obtaining the hives and is purely for hive maintenance. Our incentive was to enable us to help raise awareness and teach the local community just how important our bees are to everyday life. The financial implications alone of losing our bee colonies completely in the UK are massive as it it estimated that it would cost £1.8 billion per year to self pollinate just the essential crops we need for food , let alone the impact a further decline in wild flowers would have on our already delicate ecosystems.
Against bee-keeping – Poppy Buckingham
There are a number of reasons to reconsider the virtues of beekeeping and eating honey. Many of us love the sweet taste of honey, but even so, we must consider where our food comes from and how we treat bees to get it.
There are clear arguments against bee farming (on both a large and small scale) and against eating honey. We get honey by manipulating a living creature, stealing its food source that it has worked hard to build up, causing them stress and sometimes harm in the process.
Beekeeping is profiting on the back of the hard work of others. Bees collect nectar and use it to make honey, which provides vital nourishment for them, especially during the winter months. Nectar contains lots of water, so the bees have to work hard to dry it out, adding enzymes from their own body to the nectar to convert it into food and preserve it.
PETA has identified concerns about how some large scale bee farming operations treat and manipulate their bees. They cite how the bees are kept in unnatural environments and also the stress caused during transportation. There are also causes for concern and caution about small scale beekeeping.
There is some concern that the trend of urban beekeeping may be harmful to bee population size and overall health. Many people who get into urban beekeeping do so to help save the bee population,but this may be counter productive.
In 2013 Francis Ratnieks and Karin Alton of the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex highlighted the trouble caused by a recent spike in urban beekeeping in London. The number of hives in the city had doubled in the preceding 5 years. However, the increase in hives had not been coupled with an increase in suitable plant life. The result was very many malnourished and unhealthy bees.
Ratnieks and Alton stressed the importance of considering the local environment first. They argued that the best way to encourage and support bees in your area may not be to have a hive and become a beekeeper, instead plant bee-friendly plants (such as lavender or marjoram) and keep a bee friendly garden.
If you want to help bees in your area, rather than run a beehive, consider having a bee friendly garden, signing a petition against neonicontinoids and other harmful pesticides which are damaging the bee population, or contacting your MP about this. Visit https://www.foe.co.uk/bees for more information.