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Sustain / Food Facts / The plight of the honey bee

UK bee keeping in decline

BeekeeperBee keeping has dramatically declined in the UK and in the past one hundred years there has been around a 75% decrease in the number of bee hives. There are an estimated 274,000 honey bee hives in the UK; the majority of these hives are kept by approximately 44,000 amateur keepers. Around 200 bee keepers manage bees on a professional basis and are members of the Bee Farmers Association; collectively they manage around 40,000 colonies. The remainder are small-scale producers.  


These smaller and amateur bee keepers have had very little government support for years. At the time of writing there were only nine full-time regional bee inspectors in England and Wales and thirty seven 37 employed seasonally. The hours of work for seasonal inspectors vary and are calculated on a regional risk basis and in accordance with government funding.  At a time of escalating problems many have argued that government should have invested more money in larger numbers of bee inspectors so that they could carry out more checks on hives for diseases such as Varroa. More inspectors, with more time, could also help and advise bee keepers on how to keep their hives healthy.

Find out more about beekeeping at the British Bee-Keeping Association website:

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