The United Nations declared 20 May 2018 as World Bee Day, to highlight the importance of preserving bees and other pollinators.
Bees are major pollinators and the British Beekeepers’ Association estimates that one third of food is dependent upon pollination.
The Association also estimates the economic value of honey bees and bumblebees as pollinators of commercially grown insect-pollinated crops in the UK at over £200 million per year.
The Scottish Government is responsible for bee health policy in Scotland and the policy was launched in 2010. The Scottish Government website explains that:
“The overall aim of the Strategy is to achieve a sustainable and healthy population of honey bees for pollination and honey production in Scotland through strengthened partnership working between stakeholders with an interest in honey bees.”
A Scottish Government news release dated 26 July 2017 announced a ten-year plan to stop the decline of pollinating insects. The news release explained that:
“The Pollinator Strategy calls for:
- the restoration and creation of flower rich habitats;
- greater use of green urban infrastructures, such as roof top gardens;
- the development and use of pollinator friendly pest control;
- new research into the impact of climate change on bee and butterfly numbers”
The Scottish Parliament has its own beehives. The following outlines the Parliament’s work in this area, and is extracted from the Parliament’s website .
At the Scottish Parliament we are very conscious of our place in the landscape and are keen to ensure that we can contribute to thriving ecology across Scotland. We are very aware of the importance of bees as the world’s most important pollinator of food crops. It is estimated that one third of the food that we consume each day relies on pollination mainly by bees, but also by other insects, birds and bats.
We have 4 beehives onsite at the Scottish Parliament, during the summer they are situated in the Members’ Garden and are visible from the Members’ Restaurant. The bees have good access to all the foliage across Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat, as well as the plants and flowers within the Parliament’s gardens and wild flower meadows.
The bees and beehives are managed on our behalf by Hood’s Honey, a family-run, local business which has been beekeeping since 1950.
The beeswax (which is a bi-product of beekeeping), from Hood’s Honey bees has been used to fill the Great Seal of Scotland and seal every act of the Scottish Parliament since its inception – over 200 in number.
The beehives produce between 80lbs to 120lbs (36-54kg) of honey each autumn which is bottled and sold in the Scottish Parliament gift shop.
- Honey bees are responsible for over 50% of the annual pollination of all crops, produce, fruits, flowers, shrubs and trees in Scotland.
- Scotland’s honey bee population has continuously declined over the past decade largely due to excessively wet spring and summer weather conditions. Honey bees are unable to forage for pollen and nectar in wet weather.
- The nation’s honey bee population fell by almost 75% in 2013.
For more information, see: The Bee Project: Frequently Asked Questions
European Union ban on pesticides
In April 2018, the European Union agreed a ban on neonicotinoids, which are agricultural insecticides resembling nicotine and which are considered to be dangerous to bees.
This is expected to come into force by the end of 2018, and will mean that they can only be used in closed greenhouses. This decision by the European Union may influence policymakers further afield to follow suit.
The UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the ban was regrettable and not justified by the evidence. Guy Smith, NFU deputy president, said: “The pest problems that neonicotinoids helped farmers tackle have not gone away. There is a real risk that these restrictions will do nothing measurable to improve bee health, while compromising the effectiveness of crop protection.”
Russell Cairns, Enquiries Assistant