Our position on managed honeybees

The Trust has published a new position statement on managed honeybees. The statement has been prompted by concerns that, under certain circumstances, managed honeybees can have detrimental impacts on wild pollinator species, including bumblebees.

Our Senior Science & Policy Officer, Darryl Cox, provides the background on why we’ve decided to publish the statement.

Q1. What prompted the Trust to produce the position statement?

There is an increasing body of research which shows that, in some situations, beekeeping can have negative consequences for bumblebees (and potentially other pollinators) by increasing competition for food and by passing on diseases. These negative consequences are most marked in areas where there are fewer flowers or higher densities of honeybee hives, and could potentially be serious where vulnerable populations of wild bees are present. This statement aims to mobilise that research into action and highlights important steps that can be taken by beekeepers, conservationists, and anyone else with an interest in helping bumblebees, to lessen any potential negative impacts of managed honeybees.

Q2. Is all beekeeping bad for wild bees?

No. The message is not that beekeeping is bad, and it’s definitely not something we want to avoid or prevent. Our aim with this statement is to help inform people of best practice and encourage responsible beekeeping and well-thought-out hive placement. Keeping honeybees is important economically for honey and wax production, and for pollination of some crops and wild plants, as well as being firmly embedded in our culture. Several of the Trust’s staff and supporters are beekeepers, and are also some of the biggest advocates for wild bee conservation. The important bit is finding the middle ground that balances wild bee conservation and beekeeping, and making sure that rare wild bees aren’t inadvertently harmed.

Q3. What are the main recommendations?

The main recommendation is to take a precautionary approach to how we do beekeeping so that we do not accidentally end up causing problems for our wild pollinator communities. Five specific recommendations are made in the statement which outline how the precautionary principle can be applied in practice.

The position statement is available on our website at www.bumblebeeconservation.org/our-policies.

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