Article from the BBC website which reports that the London Beekeepers Association is saying that there may be too many beehives in central London while at the same time there is not enough food available for the bees. They are saying that instead of keeping beehives it would be better for central London firms to plant forage for bees.
This was an interesting story – I heard a version on the Today programme (which seems to pride itself on scientific illiteracy).
The government database of registered hives (Beebase), gives a count of hives in a 10-km radius of 3 apiaries I help with:
211 at Hawkwood, on the west edge of Epping Forest;
437 at Hackney Marsh;
489 at Stoke Newington
This suggests that as you go further into London the number of hives increases. I'll be interested to see what data on population and forage the LBKA comes up with.
We shouldn't only be talking about looking after honeybees, however. There are 240-odd native UK bee species, a fair few of them present in London gardens. In fact the honeybees kept by London beekeepers tend not to be native; their genes have generally come more or less recently from Italy and the northern Balkans, often via New Zealand. There seems not to be a lot of knowledge about the relations between farmed honeybees and native wild bees – e.g. competition for forage, diseases transmitted. So the keeping of honeybees as an ecological action (or gesture) raises interesting questions.
Planting forage would encourage a range of solitary and bumblebee species as well as hoverflies, butterflies and moths. If you can get urban workers to enjoy sitting in a garden and learning to tell the difference between honeybees, hoverflies, wasps, bumbles and the hairy-footed flower bee, and thinking about how we depend on them – well, that'd be worth doing.
Thanks. 'A World Without Bees' by Allison Benjamin and Brian Mcallum describes the complexity of the honey bee gene pool and how it is shrinking, and also the huge range of threats they face from disease, pesticides etc.
Friends of the Earth's Bee Cause campaign is about all bees - and really they are just using bees as an emblem for pollinators in general (and really for biodiversity in general - concentrating on plants and insects is about supporting whole ecosystems in the end).