This week’s blog has been written by Iain & Suzie Millar of The Scottish Bee Company.
It’s well known that bees are one of the world’s most important pollinating insects and play an integral role in food production and maintaining biodiversity. However, the dramatic decline in numbers has become a cause of national, if not global, concern.
Our honey bee populations are under serious threat and we as humans are very dependent on bees to pollinate crops. However, by becoming a beekeeper you have the opportunity do something positive to help the desperate situation our honey bees have found themselves in.
Playing an important role in the survival of our bees is the Scottish Bee Company – a social business passionate about increasing the honey bee population and supporting jobs for beekeepers in Scotland. In the short term they work with small scale and amateur beekeepers, offering support and providing them with necessary equipment. In the longer term these business can also contribute towards safeguarding the important role these pollinators play through the provision of easily moveable hives, which can be moved to locations near crops – providing a readily accessible pollinating service.
It is well known that honey bees are great pollinators and play a key role in our ecosystems.
In Scotland there are currently around 1,400 hobby beekeepers who are members of the Scottish Beekeepers Association (SBA), with an estimated further 1,000 hobbyists who are not. In addition there are around 25 commercial bee farmers who are members of the Bee Farmers Association (BFA) and whose businesses depend on the management of healthy honey bees.
By pollinating many of our commercial crops, insects are estimated to contribute over £400 million per annum to the UK economy. If honey bee and other insect pollinator declines continue, the high cost of pollinating commercial crops such as tomatoes, peas, apples and strawberries by other means could significantly increase the cost of our fruit and vegetables, impacting the accessibility of some to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Honey bees also play a vital role in nature. They help pollinate many wildflowers, therefore allowing them to reproduce, but without this process many plants wouldn’nt produce seeds and we would start to see a decline in wildflowers. As these plants are often the basis of complex food chains, it is easy to imagine how other wildlife (other insects, birds and mammals) would suffer if bees disappeared.
Decline of the Honey Bee
Pollinators are facing many pressures, and the impact of declining honey bee populations is far reaching. In the words of naturalist John Muir, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world”. Indeed the decline in honey bee and pollinator numbers creates risks not only to our ecosystems but to our society as well.
Since the 1950s, the distribution and diversity of some wild pollinator groups has changed in Britain, with many species disappearing. If these declines continue then the health of our food industry, which is at the heart of our economy, could be severely damaged.
So how is the Scottish Bee Company helping stave off this decline?
The company is firstly looking to enhance partnerships with landowners in order to offer suitable forage land for keeping bee hives on. To date the business has been well received by many landowners who stand to benefit from increased pollination of crops that bees provide.
The company support the scaling up of sub-commercial bee farmers to manage bees on this land, in exchange for contractual rights on a predetermined amount of honey produced. By aggregating the increased supply, the company offers previously unavailable routes to the market and branding opportunities, thereby guaranteeing a market for the bee farmer.
The business also aims to increase the number of bees in Scotland, which in turn will benefit our natural environment, whilst also increasing the number of jobs in bee keeping and promoting Scottish export and ecommerce opportunities.
Interested in hearing more? Contact Iain and Suzie Millar at email@example.com