Sunday, April 06, 2008

british bees could be next

from the latest online edition of the telegraph we read:

"Bee Wilson on the crisis facing British honey-makers [is that really her real name?]

'You don't know what you got till it's gone,' sang Joni Mitchell. 'They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.' Will this soon be true of British honey? If beekeepers' estimates are right, the British honey-bee could be wiped out in ten years. Thousands of hives have already taken a hit from the varroa mite, a deadly parasite. Now the British Beekeepers' Association is warning that British bees could be affected by the colony collapse disorder that has destroyed bee colonies all over America. They are calling on the Government to fund a research project designed to protect the nation's bees. It will cost £8 million - loose change compared with the estimated £165 million a year that bees contribute to the economy through pollinating fruit trees and other crops.

Life without the honey-bee is too horrible to contemplate. Maybe this explains the new popularity of home-grown honey. Four years ago, when I wrote a book on honey, British honey seemed in the doldrums. Compared with the great varieties of the world - Spanish orange-blossom, Greek thyme, French lavender - native honey was dull. Too much came from oil-seed rape, which makes it highly crystalline and cabbagy. But suddenly our honey is exciting again. It answers the new demand for local food. And there is more variety than before. Through honey you can sample the riches of Balmoral heather (Duchy Originals), and soon the blossoms of London's royal parks (from June Fortnum's Bee's Superior Honey will come from hives on the roof of the shop in Piccadilly) ... British honey is still a tiny chunk of the market. In 2007 our bees produced 4,000 tons - less than usual because of the wet summer. By contrast, we eat 24,000 to 26,000 tons of imported honey a year. When you realise how scarce it is, British honey seems like liquid gold: 95 per cent is not sold through supermarkets. Do track it down - to farmer's markets, specialist shops such as The Hive in London (thehivehoneyshop.co.uk) or even the individual beekeeper (find your local beekeepers association at britishbee.org.uk)."

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