22 October 2018

The annual honey survey by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) shows honeybees survived the difficult climate this year and produced a crop of honey a third bigger than last years.

The results show that the honey crop was, on average, just over 30lbs of honey per hive, or just under 14 kilos across England and Wales.

It was a difficult year in climactic terms with a very cold snap nicknamed the Beast from the East halting the honey gathering in Spring and then a long drought in many parts of the country which meant plants with shallow roots stopped producing nectar.

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While regions which traditionally have the biggest crop of honey, the East and South East, saw increases to 41 and 36lbs of honey per hive respectively, Welsh beekeepers reported an exceptionally improved crop, with over double the amount of honey compared to last year at 31.4lbs per hive, thanks largely to the long, warm summer.

Calwyn Glastonbury, a beekeeper in the Usk Valley who keeps over sixty colonies of bees and is also the BBKA’s Adopt a Beehive representative for Wales said, “Spring blossom came and went exceptionally quickly this year, which was a worry at the time, but the long, warm summer more than made up for it and was great for our honey bees.”

New farming practices

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 planted Phacelia or purple tansy near my apiary and the results astounded me. Phacelia is a plant from North Carolina 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.”

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.

How can you help?

The survey asked in what ways the public could most help honey bees and other pollinators, and BBKA members responded clearly asking the public to plant and garden with nature in mind:

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Margaret Wilson, Chairman of the BBKA said:

“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. But a new threat which could be especially bad for honey bees is the Asian hornet. It’s a carnivore, eating any insects it can, and won’t say no to small rodents either, but the largest part of its diet comes from honey bees. There is an European hornet which looks similar but is harmless, so if the public could learn the difference between them and report any sightings of the Asian hornet that would be very helpful too.”

Cost of honey

On of the things revealed by the survey is that you are asking less for a pound of honey than last year and that is true for both the small scale seller and those who have joined co-operatives.

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