“Beeflation” the latest sting for beleagured bees

June 08, 2010

The problems facing the British honeybee population are being exasperated by a new economic phenomenon – “beeflation”.

Beekeeper and hiveThe mysterious decline in the number of honeybees coupled with the growing popularity of beekeeping has led to a dramatic rise in the cost of the insects.

A five-frame nucleus of bees, which is needed to set up a new hive, cost just £40 in 2008 but now beekeepers are being charged more than £150.

Beekeeping was traditionally a countryside pursuit, but more and more city dwellers are taking it up since the plight of the honeybee population, which experts believe halved in England between 1985 and 2005, was publicised.

As part of its on-going Plan Bee campaign, The Co-operative has funded beekeeper training and start up kit including bees for an army of new urban beekeepers.

Chris Shearlock, Sustainable Development Manager at The Co-operative, said: “A series of factors have come together to have a devastating impact on honeybees, which are nature’s number one pollinating machine.

“In order to help reverse this decline in the bee population we have been supporting city dwellers to take up urban beekeeping but now ‘beeflation’ could put it out of the reach of some people.”

Last year, The Co-operative piloted an urban apiary and beekeeping courses in a Manchester park and following its success, announced in March that similar courses would be running in London and Inverness.

Brian McCallum of Urban Bees, who is training the aspiring apiarists at the London Wildlife Trust’s Camley Street Natural Park in King’s Cross, said: “Bees do well in cities with the diversity of flowers and plants in gardens, parks, railway sidings and tree-lined streets. But keeping bees in an urban environment requires commitment, training, money and an awareness of your neighbours.” 

Additional Information:

Plan Bee is a ten-point plan, worth over £500,000, to help reverse the decline of the UK bee population

  1. The Co-operative will continue to engage its five million members to raise awareness about honeybees and their recent decline. 

  2. A further £160,000 has been made available to support research into the demise of the honeybee including research into the effects of pesticides on bees and an expansion the native bee mapping project to including rearing native queen bees to increase the number of native colonies in the UK. This is in addition to the £150,000 committed to research in 2009. 

  3. The Co-operative Food will continue with its temporarily prohibition on the use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides on own-brand fresh and frozen produce, which was introduced in 2009. 

  4. The Co-operative Farms is in the second year of a three year trial to develop a wildflower seed mix that will be planted alongside crops on our farms. 

  5. The Co-operative will continue to support its members and customers to become bee-friendly gardeners, with advice and tips, through the Plan Bee campaign. 

  6. The Co-operative has given away over 600,000 packets of wild flower seeds to Co-operative members and customers. 

  7. The Co-operative will continue to make available discounted bee boxes, which provide shelter for solitary bees. 

  8. The Co-operative will continue to support its members to find out more about amateur beekeeping. In 2010 we will have urban beekeeping training projects in Manchester, London and Inverness.  

  9. The Co-operative Farms is again inviting beekeepers to establish hives on its farmland. 

  10. The Co-operative has produced documentaries on what is happening to bees in the UK and Plan Bee and supported the UK cinema release of ‘Vanishing of the Bees’.