Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Deadly parasite kills off 2billion bees in ONE year costing economy millions

A deadly parasite has killed nearly two billion bees - one in three colonies - in the last year costing the economy millions.

The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) said the nation's beehives have been hit by the Varroa mite, a parasite which weakens colonies and makes them more vulnerable to disease.

Its survey said the damage to the insects, which are vital for pollinating agricultural plants and wild flowers, could cost the economy up to £54million.

Some 90,000 of the 274,000 hives in the UK - each containing around 20,000 bees and worth some £600 a year to the economy - did not survive the winter and spring.

The Varroa mite reached the UK in 1992 and now infests 95 per cent of hives.

Untreated colonies die in three to four years.

The BBKA is concerned that there is nothing to stop a repeat of last year's losses, leading to a further reduction in the insects.
honey-bee colonies

Nearly one in three honey-bee colonies have been lost over the last year

Hundreds of members of the BBKA from across the country are marching to 10 Downing Street to hand in a petition urging the Government to increase the amount of funding for research on bee health.

The association is calling for an increase from the £200,000 currently spent on bee health research each year to £1.6million a year over the next five years.

The larger contribution would still be less than one per cent of the £825million that pollination by bees will add to the agricultural economy in that time, the BBKA said.

Tim Lovett, president of the BBKA, said: 'The increased funding we are asking for is a drop in the ocean compared to the billions of pounds the Government has found for bank bail-outs.

'There is currently no "magic bullet" for controlling varroa. We must have more research.

'Bees are probably one of the most economically useful creatures on Earth, pollinating a third of all we eat.

'They provide more than 50 per cent of pollination of wild plants on which birds and mammals depend. We must identify what is killing them, and that means research.'

National Farmers' Union vice president Paul Temple said: 'Honey bees are an underpinning component of the British countryside - whether it's heather moorland, a hedgerow, an orchard or a field of beans.

'Our bee farmers and beekeepers are the custodians of every single honey bee in our countryside and they are facing devastating bee health problems.

'To solve these problems we need comprehensive and co-ordinated research to be undertaken urgently. And one thing is clear, current levels of Government funding are nowhere near enough to support such research.'
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