<< Newcastle’s beekeepers marked their 100th anniversary with a BeeFest, in the same week that the world marked the importance of these busy buzzy pollinators. Network member Olwyn Hocking found out how bees touch our lives far more than she’d realised >>
Most of us who care about nature and the planet are already aware of the many perils facing bees – you’ve probably already signed petitions and sprinkled pollinator-friendly seeds to try to help.
But I hadn’t realised how many ways
we can try to help or why it matters so much that we do. Bee supremo Ian Campbell shared these nuggets, based on his many years of bee support (he's chair of Newcastle & District Beekeepers Association, celebrating its centenary in 2022).
AS CONSUMERS - Did you know?
· Supermarket “honey” may not be honey at all, or may have a carefully written description to allow blending with non-honey syrups.
· Industrial-scale bee farming is used in parts of the world (such as USA) to transport huge numbers to pollinate monocrops. This risks exhaustion, disease, and disrupting the natural pollinator ecology
· UK beekeepers, in contrast, tend to be “hobby beekeepers”. They don’t have the marketing or volume power to combat commercial forces but do sell through local outlets and markets.
WHAT CAN WE DO? Seek it out! Track down local suppliers online or through sustainable shops; read “honey” labels carefully; buy local honeys as presents (and educate family and friends through explaining why it matters)
AS PARENTS - Did you know?
· Schools arrange lessons and projects with beekeepers
· They are tailored for all ages
WHAT CAN WE DO? Suggest activities for schools, youth groups etc, and ensure all these important educational messages are included.
AS EMPLOYEES - Did you know?
· Many organisations have installed hives – the new Helix centre in Newcastle’s science quarter is developing them, and Fenwicks have had them on the roof for quite a while!
· There’s now so much support, there’s a risk of “saturation” leading to food shortage OR upsetting the balance of populations with other pollinators
· So bids should be carefully considered – it’s best in areas with surplus suitable nutrition
WHAT CAN WE DO? If firms want to do their bit – make sure it’s well-informed rather than a gesture that won’t really help.
AS PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT ECOLOGICAL BALANCE - Did you know?
· What you see as pesky wasps or flies may well be bees – most bees don’t look like stereotyped bees!
· Bees now face a nightmare of threats – most of us know about the parasitic varroa mite, our use of dangerous pesticides, reduced planting as gardens are paved over for parking, fewer wildflower areas due to intensive farming. On top of that, the European hornet predator is slowly moving north and has now reached our area (Gosforth Park). Even scarier, the Asian hornet has just arrived on southern UK shores. We should learn the signs and report any sightings.
· Climate change brings the harm of drought – water is vital for diluting honey for their food and to control hive temperatures. Other extreme weather that harms bees includes heavy rains, wildfire and high winds. Specialist bees reliant on particular food sources are finding it particularly difficult to adapt.
WHAT CAN WE DO? Sign petitions, lobby lawmakers to protect gardens from cars, support rewilding initiatives
AS GARDENERS AND PLOTHOLDERS - Did you know?
· guidelines for bees to be based in allotments have been drawn up for Newcastle allotment societies
WHAT CAN WE DO? Encourage plotholders to provide bee homes and plant pollinator-friendly plants, set aside space for wildflowers
AS POTENTIAL BEEKEEPERS - Did you know?
· There’s training and certificates available if you would like to get involved
· Looking after bees is like being a farmer – the welfare of the bees is paramount
ABOUT IAN CAMPBELL
· Apiary Manager, South Gosforth Honey (“a hobby gone mad”)
· Chair, Newcastle & District Beekeepers Association
· BSc Environmental Science, Open University
· www.newcastle beekeepers.co.uk
Date/time: Sunday 22 May 10-4pm Venue: Newcastle Cat and Dog Shelter, Benton North Farm, NE12 8EH