Urban beekeeping could have devastating effects on the bees and native wild pollinators as well, according to recent research from the University of Sussex.*
The study suggested instead that people should be planting wild flowers instead of keeping bees, as urban honeybees are struggling to find adequate food sources and may end up starving or sick.
In London, over the past five years, the number of hives has doubled.
According to Professor Francis Ratneiks, interviewed in The Telegraph, urban beekeeping is not the solution to the decline of honeybees, because it risks bringing too many bees to an area where there is not enough pollen and nectar, potentially risking widespread disease.
“Both honeybees and wild bees have been declining. Although the causes are complex the most important seems to be loss of flowers and habitat.
‘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 Telegraph
The upswing in urban beekeeping is yet another example of creating one problem by using flawed logic to solve another. If we truly wish to help our fellow animals, instead of “using them,” we ought to offer them the sanctuary they so desperately need. As professor Francis Ratnieks suggests, planting wild flowers and keeping a chemical free yard are gifts anyone can give to honey bees and other native pollinators in their area.
I would also go a step further to suggest giving up honey in general, as this is the honeybee’s winter food reserve, which they are obviously in need of.
Putting aside what honey is and the purpose it serves for the bees themselves, it is an unnecessary part of our diet. And as this study shows, whether you get honey from your neighbor’s backyard or the store, the hive that created it had to work hard to do so.** Just in case you didn’t know, a honeybee colony will collectively have to travel over 55,000 miles (or more) to make just one pound of honey.
Especially with the marked decline over the past few years in the population of bees, both “kept” and wild, it is time to stop using and keeping bees and to start planting more pesticide and herbicide-free wild flower gardens!
** Potentially coming into contact with pesticides and other harmful chemicals along the way.
* Published by The Society of Biology