The Bee Blog

Bees are amazing    June 2018

If you ask a child what is special about a bee, most will say they make honey, a few will say they sting. Both answers are right, sort of.

There are three types of bee:

There are thousands of species of bee worldwide and about 270 of these have been seen in the UK.

But of these hundreds of bee types, only one is the Honeybee and these mainly live in commercial hives where the honey is harvested and sold. Bumblebees are often the big fluffy ones and there are about 25 species in the UK. The rest are solitary, and unlike the honeys and bumbles, which live in social groups, they live alone and care for their offspring themselves.

So yes, bees make honey, but not many of them.

And yes, bees sting, but if they do some will die, so it is an action of last resort when they are protecting their hive or are made very angry. Leave a bee alone and it will leave you alone. This is unlike the wasp which is often aggressive and can spoil a summer picnic by not going away. The common wasp is the one with the very narrow waist.

Bees are amazing because they are a perfect pollinating machine. Wasps are pollinators as well but not as good as the bees.

Power lines and bees   June 2018

Why are bee numbers falling so much? One answer is the use of insecticides but there are other reasons as well. A really interesting, and potentially explosive, report has recently been published in Scientific Reports. This implicates the low frequency electromagnetic field as an important stressor for the Honey bee, leading to altered learning, flight and less successful foraging for food. This will ultimately lead to reduced pollination and less food production.

The original reports that the overhead power lines cause an increase in childhood leukemia have been thoroughly discredited, and the World Health Organisation have clearly stated that it is safe to live near power lines.  Maybe this will happen with this report. What is inevitable is that more research is now needed.

Read more at

Extremely Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields impair the Cognitive and Motor Abilities of Honey Bees  S. Shepherd et al, Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 7932 (2018) |

How can YOU help?

What can we as individuals do about the bee number decline?

We can do many things to help

 Why are bees so political? Neonics strike

Because they have stopped buzzing. Bees are being killed by insecticides used in agriculture. This is Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ all over again.

But good news for bees, similar to when DDT was banned in the 1960’s, the UK is now going to support an extended ban on the insecticide under scrutiny today, the neonicotinoids (neonics).

The neonics are very toxic and have caused the collapse of the honey bee numbers. However the debate remains highly contentious and polarised. The supporters of the use of these chemicals are paid by the companies that make them. New evidence has now been published where good quality field trials have been done. The authors conclude that the neonics are causing bee death. The company scientists are still arguing.

Do you know how these chemicals kill the bees? Do you know what the alternative insecticides are? Our society is dependant on our farmers producing quality crops in high yield. But they have to be safe to eat in the short term and the long term. And they must not kill off the very insects that pollinate them. What will farmers use instead?

As a young scientist, make your arguments more persuasive by knowing the science behind the hype.

Do you know the difference between a honey bee and a bumble bee?

Read more at:

Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees and wild bees Woodcock1B. A. et al , Science  30 Jun 2017:Vol. 356, Issue 6345, pp. 1393-1395  DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1190

Chronic exposure to neonicotinoids reduces honey bee health near corn crops  Tsvetkov N et al,Science  30 Jun 2017: Vol. 356, Issue 6345, pp. 1395-1397  DOI: 10.1126/science.aam7470

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