Honey Production up, but Nosema likes it warm

UK honey production up from 2013, but the new Nosema and global warming may be a problem down the road.

The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) says better weather and better beekeeping have upped honey production. Beekeepers across Wales have reported an average yield of 26lbs of honey per colony this year according to the annual Honey Survey. That’s an increase of almost a fifth on the 22lbs per colony reported by beekeepers in Wales in 2013, and is a far cry from the 10lbs per colony in 2012.

Conducted by BBKA amongst 2,000 beekeepers across the UK, the annual Honey Survey explores the current year’s honey yield and the factors affecting honey bee colonies and honey production. It shows a rise in British production. Meanwhile, beekeepers across Suffolk have been left buzzing by the bumper crops of honey they have harvested this year – with the east coming out on top of the country’s productivity tables. Our region just pips the south east into first place by less than a pound with its total of 36.6lbs per hive. That is 4.4lbs above the national average and 7.9lbs up on last year’s total when the east also led the way.

The figures came from the British Beekeepers Association’s (BBKA) annual honey survey which were released today. Paul White, swarm coordinator for the Suffolk Beekeepers’ Association, said consistent weather over the summer had boosted bees’ productivity.

“The long hot summer has helped them develop quite strongly,” he said. “The thing was the spring came very, very early and the warmth carried on and we did not have any of the previous year’s mixture of rain and sun.

“It has been a fairly consistent year. The crop we get will depend each year on the weather. Last year we had a fairly damp spell. As a beekeeper I don’t really look after the bees, they look after themselves and I nurture them. This year the sun has helped me nurture them much better. The quality of honey was good as well.”

The BBKA’s Director of Public Affairs Tim Lovett said: “While this increase is great news for beekeepers and honey bees the historic average is 40lbs plus per hive so there is still some way to go if we are to return to our most productive. But beekeepers in the East of England are doing especially well. Beekeeping has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years and it is crucial that we do not lose the momentum. Honey bees are essential pollinators and vital contributors to food production.”

Despite the good news for this year it is reported climate change could threaten future honey production.

Research from scientists at Queen’s University, Belfast have found that Nosema cerene which targets bees could be set to flourish in northern Europe as the plant continues to warm up. Co-author of the study and adjunct reader at Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, Professor Robert Paxton said: “This emerging parasite is more susceptible to cold than its original close relative, possibly reflecting its presumed origin in east Asia.

“In the face of rising global temperatures, our findings suggest that it will increase in prevalence and potentially lead to increased honey bee colony losses in Britain.”

Co-researcher Myrsini Natsopoulou, from the Martin-Luther-Universitat Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, said: “Our results reveal not only that Nosema cerene is a better competitor than its original close relative, but that its widespread distribution and patterns of prevalence in nature depend on climatic conditions too.”