(Pic: R Miller)

Following on from Katherine Pitt's bee campaign blog...

A neighbour involved in our community garden suggested that we get a bee hive. It’s a very popular thing to do, especially on food growing sites. But I argued against it.

Yes we need bees to pollinate our plants, but there are already thousands of honey bee colonies in London (3,160, according to Capital Bee, see download on Hackney council's biodiversity web pag), and honey bees forage up to 12km or more from the hive (source), so there are plenty around to pollinate our plants.

And yes honey bees are under threat -- but increasing the number of hives in built-up areas where there is limited green space, especially if they are the conventional, intensively-farmed hives, is probably not the answer.

I think it is more important to provide food for the thousands of bees we already have by planting lots of bee-friendly plants (See suggestions at Buglife and Bees Action Network) as well as cutting out pesticides.

And if we did decide to keep bees, I would want to do it the sustainable way, which interferes less with the natural life of the insect.  Sustainable (also called natural) bee-keeping produces a smaller harvest than the conventional method (because you leave more honey for the bees to live on!), but if your motivation is to help the plight of the bee, and increase pollination, then that shouldn’t matter. There is a lot of information around on sustainable bee-keeping: see Tim Evans download on Hackney's biodiversity web page. Websites he recommends are biobees.com and warre.biobees.com. And if you already keep bees the conventional way, it's not too late to adapt to the more sustainable method....

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