UK languishes in supply of honeybees for crops, researchers say

Honeybee - image: Alexander Stokes
Honeybee - image: Alexander Stokes

The UK has fewer than a quarter of the honeybees it needs to ensure adequate pollination for flowering crops, according to new research published this week.

The research placed the UK at or near the bottom of a table of supply of honeybees relative to demand in 41 European countries for both years studied, 2005 and 2010.

While honeybee populations actually rose across the continent between the two years, demand for pollination services increased at nearly five times the rate, due to the rising cultivation of oilseed rape and other pollinated crops grown as biofuels - a trend which the researchers expect to continue.

Professor Simon Potts of the University of Reading, a co-author of the paper, said: "Farmers are encouraged to grow oil crops, yet there is not enough joined-up thinking about how to help the insects that will pollinate them."

They called for measures to support beekeepers and for domestication of other pollinators such as bumblebees and mason bees to be considered.

The results are published in the online journal PLOS One.

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