Bees make an important contribution to the sustainability of the countryside, contributing both to agriculture and horticulture and to biodiversity. They also produce honey and other hive products.
The European honey bee (Apis mellifera) plays a dominant role, being the major managed pollinator available for field and outdoor fruit crops, while species of bumble bee (Bombus) are commercially reared for the managed pollination of a number of protected crops, including tomatoes. The economic value of crops grown commercially in the UK that benefit from bee pollination is estimated at around £120m-£200m p.a.. By contrast, the value of honey production in the UK fluctuates between £10-£30m p.a.. Honey bees also play an increasingly important pollination role in respect of many wild species of flora. The economic value of bees to wild plant pollination is thought to be substantial but impossible to evaluate because the pollination requirements of most species of wild plants in the UK are unknown.
There are thought to be some 44,000 beekeepers in the UK who maintain around 274,000 colonies of honey bees. Of these, around 300 are commercial beekeepers who are members of the Bee Farmers' Association; they manage around 40, 000 colonies. The remainder are small-scale beekeepers, many of whom are members of national and local beekeeping associations, such as the British Beekeepers' Association in England. There are around 33,000 beekeepers in England, who maintain some 230,000 colonies.
The National Bee Unit (NBU) manages a web based database of beekeepers in England and Wales called Beebase. The Beebase website also provides information on the functional activities of the NBU, legislation, pests and diseases including their recognition and control, interactive maps, current research areas, publications, advisory leaflets and key contacts. Beekeepers registered on Beebase can request a free apiary inspection visit from their local Bee Inspector and receive information and advice on disease recognition and control.
Many beekeepers have already registered so if you keep bees and have not yet registered please do so via the Beebase website. Registration is free of charge.
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Page last modified: 13 Nov 2008