So why is this project so urgent and important?
It became apparent in the 1990s that the UK bee population was declining at an alarming rate, with beekeepers, farmers and scientists regularly highlighting the problem. Research coordinated by the EU confirmed that low levels of pesticides were remaining in the soil year after year and that these were causing an impact further up the food chain, with widespread decimation of the bee population.
However, it is not fair to say that this is the sole cause. Highlighting the huge problems of pesticides, disease and the hive mites is only half the story, with many other influencing factors also taking their toll.
The removal of unmanaged wild woodlands is greatly limiting the honey bees’ natural living quarters and monoculture farming is producing floral deserts. In addition, DNA testing has confirmed that poor quality pollens are forming poor quality proteins, which create weaker bees that are not able to gather and work to the level required to enable the colony to thrive.
And, last but not least, the long-term and widespread removal of spring swarms from the wild into ‘managed captivity’ for honey production has further reduced the natural process of renewal, as the thriving spring swarms would have replenished the dying colonies. The BeesMAX project is one of the very few UK enviroinmental renewal projects for rehoming bees back into their natural environments.
So, what does this have to do with the profitability and productivity of rural farming in the UK?
Losing bees could have devastating effects on our farms, economy, and day-to-day life. As food pollinators, bees play a huge part in almost everything we eat and everything that our food (cows, pigs, turkeys, etc.) eats. Without them, landowners would lose the most efficient and cost-effective pollinators on Earth greatly increasing the cost of farming and food. Farmers would have to invest in expensive pollination technology. If they couldn’t afford the technology, farmers would be severely limited in what crops they could grow as bees pollinate thirty percent of the world’s crops.
The loss of bees could also be disastrous for land values. Crops, livestock, and wildlife will drop in numbers and value without the bees around to pollinate the plants and food sources of the land. Since the value of farming real estate relies heavily on the profitability of the land and its natural resources a decline in bee population could, in turn, mean a huge decline in land values.
People have been scrambling to find ways to help the honeybees and we are making one small step towards success. Our community housing schemes for wild honey bees is about environmental regeneration and raising awareness and advancing the personal involvement of the general public. This is where the concept of BeesMAX originated.