Welsh Green Dragon

Too many Beekeepers and not enough Bees by Chris Halpin

The Plight of the Bumble Bee

There’s been plenty of coverage over recent years of the falling numbers of bee populations and the implications this holds for us in terms of food – fewer bees – fewer crops get pollinated.

There are many theories behind why the bees seem to be giving up on us, ranging from falling biodiversity, to parasites and diseases like the Varroa mite, and the very wet summers we’ve seen over the last few years.

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Could things be looking up?

However, things do seem to be looking up for the humble bumble bee and his 249 other cousins.

Welsh Beekeepers are feeling optimistic about the season ahead. Bee colonies have managed to survive through the harshest winter we’ve had for 30 years because although it’s been cold it’s also been relatively dry, meaning that in milder temperatures foraging bees have been able to get out and collect pollen.

The recent good news that disease free Queen Bees will now be posted from the Isle of Man to try and bolster populations here is also instilling hope.

This coupled with the increased public interest in the art of bee keeping itself should mean the bees have a fighting chance of survival – in what’s been dubbed the latest craze to hit suburbia, the terms ‘urban beekeeping‘ or ‘backyard beekeeping’ are becoming the norm in beekeeping circles.

‘Massive’ influx of keen new beekeepers

However, it seems that Beekeeping Associations in Wales are finding it hard to cope with the influx of new members.

Some clubs say they’ve noticed an increase of up to 50 per cent, and John King who is chairman of the Cardiff Vale and Valley’s Beekeeping Association says he’s got more students than ever.

In normal years John says there’d be 8-10 new members of which 5 or 6 may have taken beekeeping up properly. This year there’s been fifty new recruits of which forty are showing a keen interest in keeping it up.

Beginners at the Cardiff Vale and Valleys Beekeeping Association

As a result resources are stretched and people in his club are working all hours trying to keep things going. It’s also a simple case of supply and demand, in that there just aren’t enough bees to go around.

You can’t set up an Apiary overnight

John also said there’s been interest from people who are keen to start straight away but are disappointed when they find out it takes time to get set up.

One of the problems we get is that people think , oh I’ve done the course now, I can get everything and the bees will come overnight. The biggest hindrance we have at the moment is bees, because we have suffered losses over the last two years and are trying to rebuild our stocks, and we’re reluctant to deplete them to pass them onto new beekeepers

Beekeeping is a year round hobby, and requires commitment like looking after any pet. One of John’s students Gareth Harvey has been keeping bees for around two years and says it’s not like having a dog – it requires weeks of training and he’s always learning.

One thing’s for sure, it’s not a packaged hobby you can buy in a kit, despite the numerous products and starter kits on sale.

What does the future have in store?

It’s obvious that the media exposure surrounding the threat to bee populations has done a great deal to encourage new people to get involved.

And there are many other projects which are also helping people to understand and engage with bees in new ways, from planting bee friendly plants in your garden to adopting a bee hive.

The National Botanic Garden of Wales has a bee garden that can be home to up to a million bees each summer, and a Big Brother style viewing gallery with CCTV cameras so you can get really close to the action.

There are also public art schemes in the pipeline. ‘For the bees‘ is an art project devised by Swansea based artists Owen Griffiths and Fern Thomas who are  both embarking on beekeeping for the first time.

They hope to harness the sound of the swarm by working with composers to make a piece of choral music – a project that has already been spotted by BBC Radio 4.

Whatever the future does have in store for the bee, there are plenty of people out there who are working hard to stop the decline.

And now with the British Government making bees a priority, and the Welsh Assembly becoming more involved, Beekeepers from novice to experienced will certainly be hoping that the numbers will start to rise again.


Is Copenhagen unravelling from East Anglia? by Chris Halpin

What a perfectly timed scandal. With days until the Copenhagen summit, the ramifications resulting from the leaked emails of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia could be massive.

Every country who is going to the Copenhagen summit will be going there with their individual national agenda, and this latest controversy gives every sceptic a big fat get out clause.

The UN has now stepped in to investigate the claims that climate data has been exaggerated or ‘suped up’ by academics to try and make the scale of global temperature change look more severe. It all began a couple of weeks ago when hackers leaked hundreds of emails that were sent between scientists at the CRU and their peers from around the globe. It has most recently seen the resignation of the centre’s director, Phil Jones, and claims that the CRU had thrown away raw data in the Sunday Times have caused global uproar in scientific and political spheres.

As an authority on climate change research,  the CRU has one of the most important and detailed datasets on charting global temperatures in modern history. However, these emails have cast doubt on the impact that human beings have had on temperature increases, allowing climate sceptics to say that the scientific case for climate change has been grossly undermined.

If it’s a scandal, whack ‘gate’ at the end, and hey presto ”ClimateGate’ is born. It looks set to cast a dark cloud over the Copenhagen Summit, as countries like Saudi Arabia who look to refuse to cut their carbon emissions at the Copenhagen summit, can now try to deny that human beings have had any impact on increased levels of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere.

It is argued that there is still plenty of other unequivocal evidence that humans are to blame for the dramatic rise in global temperatures since the industrial revolution. The Huffington Post has dissected this latest debacle blow by blow so you can see exactly what ‘claims’ there ‘are’ to deny any of it is actually happening.

The run up to the summit has certainly had its twists and turns, but could this be the final derailment?

This is from the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 from this morning, where John Humphreys interviewed Jonathan Porritt, the founder of the Forum for the Future and Philip Stott, Professor Emeritus of Biogeography at the University of London. Makes for a very informing listen.