Beekeeping in the UK
A Report on Beekeeping in the UK for the Erasmus Let Bee Project
1.1 In general the climate in the UK is cool and often cloudy. Extremes of temperature, whether hot or cold are rare. Summers are generally cool. Winters are not particularly cold but can be very damp. Snow is infrequent. The wettest parts of the UK may receive 1500mm or more rain in a year, whereas the driest receive half of this. Apart from damp, the other climatic problem faced by bees is the highly variable nature of the weather. Unseasonal weather can occur at any time of year. Mild winters can encourage unseasonal activity by the bees and poor summers can severely limit colony development and honey storage.
2. Honey Flows
2.1 Weather permitting (see 1.1 above), over most of the country, the main honey flow occurs in June and early July, from flowers such as clover (Trifolium spp) and blackberry (Rubus fructicosus). In the north of England and Scotland, heather (Caluna vulgaris) provides a honey flow in August. Heather honey is regarded as a specialist product and is highly valued by consumers. Agricultural crops, such as oilseed rape (Brassica napus) can be important sources of honey in some areas in the spring, although the quality of the honey is poor. The only significant summer tree honey comes from Lime trees (Tilia spp), but the nectar flow from these is notoriously variable and, in many years, absent. In the autumn, ivy (Hedera helix) can produce significant nectar flows that can be a great help in providing winter stores for the bees.
3. Beekeeping Organisations
3.1 There are two main beekeeping organisations in the UK: the British Beekeepers Association (‘BBKA’) and the Bee Farmers Association (‘BFA’). Neither can be considered organic or ecological in their approach. As a result, beekeepers who favour more ecological approaches often form their own local self-help groups. The Natural Beekeeping Trust does not have a membership as such, but widely promotes ecological beekeeping practices (‘natural beekeeping’) both in the UK and abroad.
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