I am a beekeeper. I do it for the honey for my toast, wax to make candles, and so that bees can pollinate plants. But mainly because bees need help.
Honeybees and other insects pollinate flowering plants. These include lots of fruit and vegetables that we eat and enjoy; beans, blueberries, bell peppers, beets, broccoli, butternut squash… and those are only the ones I could think of that begin with B!
These, and other forage plants, provide nectar that bees collect to make honey. Bees need honey survive through the winter. In return, plants rely on insects transferring pollen to fertilize seeds. Without pollinators, growing food will become a huge challenge for farmers. Plants are grown to feed to animals too, so a huge amount of our food supply relies on flowering plants and the insects that visit them.
The changing climate means these plants – and bees – are under pressure from severe weather events, like storms, floods, and heatwaves. Bees need flowering plants, and flowering plants need bees.
Honeybees face challenges too, from pests increasingly able to survive here in the UK due to changes in our climate. Like the like the orange-legged alien Asian hornet, that will wipe out a honeybee colony in hours stealing the honey and eating larvae. If you see one (orange legs, remember) you must report it. See: risc.brc.ac.uk
We can help to improve life for honeybees by planting more bee-friendly forage plants, and by helping defend honeybee colonies from pests.
But the biggest thing we can do is tackle the climate crisis responsible for storms, floods and heatwaves. Every week, nearly every day we hear on the news about the impacts of these events causing havoc around the world, and here in the UK. Changing the way we live is just part of the solution. We must influence and lobby decision-makers to embed low-carbon and economically fruitful lifestyles. Keep reading more in this column for more.
Find out more about honeybees by visiting Haslemere Educational Museum, where there is an observation hive. I am one of the volunteer beekeepers who maintain the hives. Lift the flaps to safely see the honeybees at work through the glass. If you’re lucky, there may be some honey for sale in the shop!
Jane is one of the volunteer beekeepers at Haslemere Educational Museum, and has her own small apiary near Chiddingfold. Since studying for a MSc in sustainable architecture at the Centre for Alternative Technology, Jane has been treasurer of Transition Haslemere, and a director of Haslemere Active Travel Community Interest group, promoting walking and cycling in the area.