Yet another article I missed when it came out in August. No mention of CCD which is interesting. There is also an interesting forum discussion going on about this at the Organic Consumers Association site.
Honeybee Deaths Reaching Crisis Point Threatening Fruit and Vegetable Pollination
By Alison Benjamin
The Guardian, UK, August 12, 2008
Straight to the Source
1 in 3 of UK's honeybees did not survive winter and spring
Pollination of fruit and vegetables at risk
Britain's honeybees have suffered catastrophic losses this year, according to a survey of the nation's beekeepers, contributing to a shortage of honey and putting at risk the pollination of fruits and vegetables.
The survey by the British Beekeepers' Association (BBKA) revealed that nearly one in three of the UK's 240,000 honeybee hives did not survive this winter and spring.
The losses are higher than the one in five colonies reported dead earlier this year by the government after 10% of hives had been inspected.
The BBKA president, Tim Lovett, said he was very concerned about the findings: "Average winter bee losses due to poor weather and disease vary from between 5% and 10%, so a 30% loss is deeply worrying. This spells serious trouble for pollination services and honey producers." The National Bee Unit has attributed high bee mortality to the wet summer in 2007 and in the early part of this spring that confined bees to their hives. This meant they were unable to forage for nectar and pollen and this stress provided the opportunity for pathogens to build up and spread.
But the BBKA says the causes are unclear. Its initial survey of 600 members revealed a marked north-south divide, with 37% bee losses in the north, compared to 26% in the south. "We don't know why there is a difference and what is behind the high mortality," said Lovett.
The government recognises that the UK's honeybee hives - run by 44,000 mostly amateur beekeepers - contribute around £165m a year to the economy by pollinating many fruits and vegetables. "30% fewer honeybee colonies could therefore cost the economy some £50m and put at risk the government's crusade for the public to eat five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day," Lovett warned.
The Honey Association warned last month that English honey will run out by Christmas and no more will be available until summer 2009. It blames the shortage on fewer honeybees and farmers devoting more fields to wheat, which has soared in price but does not produce nectar.
The UK's leading honey company is so concerned by the crisis that it has pledged to donate money to honeybee research. From next month, for each jar of Rowse English honey sold in supermarkets 10p will be donated to a fund dedicated to improving the health of the nation's honeybees.
Full Story: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/aug/12/conservation.wildlife1