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An article in the current edition of The Biologist, explains that the boom in urban beekeeping is not the answer to honeybee declines. The high density of hives could even be bad for honeybees and other flower-visiting insects as it risks overtaxing the available nectar and pollen supply, and potentially encourages the spread of diseases.

In the article, Professor Francis Ratnieks and Dr Karin Alton, from the Laboratory of Apiculture & Social Insects at the University of Sussex, suggest that we should channel the amazing enthusiasm for bees into growing more flowers.

Professor Ratnieks says: “Both honeybees and wild bees have been declining. Although the causes are complex the most important seems to be loss of flowers and habitat. Since World War Two the spread of intensive farming has greatly reduced areas rich in wildflowers, such as hay meadows. In the UK, 75% of the total land is now agricultural, so the lack of flowers is a major problem for our bees.

“If the problem is not enough flowers, increasing the number of hives risks making that problem worse. The honeybee is just one of many insect species which feed on nectar and pollen. Having a high density of honeybee hives is not only bad for honeybees, but may also affect bumblebees and other species feeding on the same flowers.”

The Biologist will be with our members today, and is now available online. Other highlights include an interview with Imran Khan, the British Science Association’s new chief executive, and news from our policy team about hay meadows in Transylvania.

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