No bees without beekeepers! How volunteers are increasing food security, as swarms proliferate across the UK

Experts from the University of Warwick say without the tireless work of beekeepers across the UK, honeybees would struggle to survive. As guardians of the hive, these dedicated individuals play an indispensable part in preserving the bee population and securing our future.

The warning comes as people across the UK have noticed an increase in bee swarms - owing to a long, cold and wet spring - which is leading to beekeepers run out of equipment and resources to manage the problem.

Honeybees are more than just sweet producers of honey; they are essential pollinators critical to food production and biodiversity. But it is the beekeepers, like those at the University of Warwick, who help ensure their survival. Through their efforts, these unsung heroes protect and nurture honeybee colonies, safeguarding their health and combating threats.

Professor David Chandler, a microbiologist and entomologist at Warwick University said: "We only have honeybees now because of beekeepers.

"There are no wild honeybees in this country because honeybees are affected by a parasitic mite which feeds on their blood - it’s an invasive species."

According to the beekeepers themselves, the absence of their unwavering dedication would spell disaster. Alan Deeley, a seasoned beekeeper and proud member of Warwick University’s beekeeping team, said: "Without the beekeepers giving their time, wild honeybees would struggle to live. We’re the frontline defenders of these vital pollinators.

-I-ve been working as a beekeeper for eight years - since retiring from my role in IT - and raising awareness of this issue is something I’m passionate about. It’s hard to overstate how crucial wild honeybees are to British food security - but they need dedicated apiarists to aid their survival, with threats including pests, the changing climate and urbanisation.

-With many people across the UK seeing a rise in bee swarms - something which can be quite scary to witness - us beekeepers have had our work cut out of late. We’ve even experienced a lack of equipment to deal with the issue. Swarms are largely docile due to consuming a large amount of sugar, making them drowsy, but they still pose issues to safety. It’s best to keep a safe distance and contact a local beekeeper, we can deal with the problem safely.-

Beekeepers at Warwick University undertake a multitude of responsibilities to support honeybee populations. They diligently monitor and manage colonies, tackling diseases, pests, and environmental challenges head-on. Their expertise and care ensure that honeybees thrive and continue their vital role as nature’s pollinators.

Alan added: -The University of Warwick has enabled beekeepers like me a fantastic facility to support the survival of wild honeybees. Through its on-campus apiary, we provide the perfect habitat for bees to exist and thrive. It’s a wonderful feeling to know we are supporting the environment and the University has been able to help us achieve this - providing funding and resources.-

University of Warwick Engineering PhD candidate Francesca Bellingeri, who volunteers at the apiary, added: -I have absolutely fallen in love with beekeeping over the past year and now I can’t imagine life without it! I’ve learnt so much and met so many incredible people through doing this, it really has opened up a whole new world for me.

-Beekeeping is completely different from my day-to-day life as an engineering PhD candidate. Nowadays, everything is so fast-paced but when we are inspecting the hives it really allows you to stop, take a step back, and appreciate nature... especially our wonderful honeybees. It really helps me to relax and is fantastic for overall wellbeing; we look after our bees but they also look after us in that way.- The University of Warwick proudly recognizes the indispensable role of beekeepers in sustaining honeybee populations across the UK. Their unwavering commitment, knowledge, and passion ensure a future where honeybees can continue to flourish, benefiting us all.

University of Warwick press office contact:

Annie Slinn

Communications Officer