‘Better weather and better beekeeping have upped honey production’ says British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), but warns against complacency Britain’s beekeepers have reported an average yield of 32lbs of honey per colony in 2014, according to the findings of the British Beekeepers Association’s annual Honey Survey, released on 26 November 2014.
The survey revealed a substantial 28% increase on the 25lbs per colony reported in 2013 and is a far cry from the 8lbs per colony nadir of 2012. Conducted by BBKA amongst 2,000 beekeepers across the country, the annual Honey Survey explores the current year’s honey yield and the factors affecting honey bee colonies and honey production.
Commenting on the increased yield for this year, BBKA 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.”
To help counter the devastating impact of pests and diseases on honey bee colonies in recent years, the BBKA has funded research exploring honey bee welfare; but great emphasis has also been given to equipping all beekeepers with the husbandry skills needed to maintain healthy and productive honey bee colonies, and the 2014 Honey Survey clearly reflects this effort. Of beekeepers who reported an increased honey yield, around two fifths, 41%, cited ‘better beekeeping’ as a contributory factor. Further, 58% of all beekeepers reported that they had attended some form of training event with their local beekeeping association over the past year.
Other factors cited in the survey as contributory factors to the improved honey yields included the hot weather, mentioned by 60% of beekeepers; the early Spring, 58%; and swarming, 19%. And when asked to comment on any ‘unusual behaviour’ from their bees this year, 35% cited ‘early swarming’ and 15% late swarming’ (July or later).
Swarm management is central to good beekeeping and the ongoing welfare of honey bees. It can also impact greatly on honey yields, as Tim Lovett explains: “Swarming is a natural phenomenon whereby honey bee colonies reproduce by dividing to create new colonies. Early swarming leaves a weakened parent colony; while late swarming can sometimes leave new colonies with insufficient time to stock up for winter. “A well‐trained beekeeper will be able to spot the early signs of swarming and act swiftly to reduce potential losses, and build up the colonies after swarming,” he said.
Of the beekeepers that took part in this year’s survey, a third, 33%, manage one or two hives, while 28 per cent managed three or four. Over a quarter, 27%, manage five to ten hives. The average beekeeper has been beekeeping for around nine years but this year the number of new beekeepers has appeared to fall off slightly–just 22% having been beekeepers for 1-‐2 years, compared to 26% last year and 41 and 44% in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
“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,” said Tim Lovett. “The better weather has helped a great deal but it is also the improving husbandry skills of beekeepers, as they gain experience, that has made a big difference. These very precious creatures still need all the help we can give.”