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Urban beekeeping is harming wild bees, says Cambridge University

Urban beekeeping is harming wild bees, says Cambridge University
Issue Time:2018-08-03

The rise in amateur beekeepers keeping hives on roofs and gardens is contributing to the decline of wild bees, Cambridge University has claimed.

Experts at the Department of Zoology said the growth in urban keeping was leaving wild bees struggling to gather enough pollen and nectar.

Urban beekeeping has flourished in recent years, with many museums, charities and businesses creating colonies on their roofs.

“Keeping honeybees is an extractive activity. It removes pollen and nectar from the environment, which are natural resources needed by many wild species of bee and other pollinators,” said González-Varo, also Cambridge’s Zoology Department.

“Honeybees are artificially-bred agricultural animals similar to livestock such as pigs and cows. But this livestock can roam beyond any enclosures to disrupt local ecosystems through competition and disease.”

The conservationists argue there is a “lack of distinction” in public understanding – fuelled by misguided charity campaigns - between an agricultural problem and an urgent biodiversity issue.

Many organisations now keep bees on the roof 

“The crisis in global pollinator decline has been associated with one species above all, the western honeybee.

“Yet this is one of the few pollinator species that is continually replenished through breeding and agriculture,” said co-author Dr Jonas Geldmann.

“Saving the honeybee does not help wildlife. Western honeybees are a commercially managed species that can actually have negative effects on their immediate environment through the massive numbers in which they are introduced.”

Honeybeesare active for nine to twelve months and travel up to 10km from their hives.

Experts say it results in massive “spillover” from farmed honeybees into the landscape, potentially out-competing wild pollinators.

Honeybees also pass on diseases to wild bees when they feed from the same flowers, the researchers warn.

Wild European bee species such as the great yellow bumblebee, which was once found across the UK but has lost 80 per cent of its range in the last half century, and is now limited to coastal areas of Scotland.

The experts say there needs to be greater controls of managed honeybee hives.

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