A mystery slump in the bee population on the isle of Cumbrae has left the community baffled.
Estimates given suggest that upwards of tens of thousands of bees have been killed during the past year.
A beekeeping group had been set up on the island, but members have been shocked to find that several of the hives have not survived.
David Wilson of the beekeepers group expressed concerns about the situation to the ‘News’ recently, and suggested that the hives have come under attack from wasps, who can repeatedly sting unlike their bee counterparts who die off after a single sting is given off.
He said: “The hives became extremely weakened after the queen bees had left, leaving them exposed to attack.”
Mr Wilson stated that the figure could be far in excess of 10,000 of the ‘Buckfast bees’, given the number of hives in different areas of the island – the former Hush Hush listening post from WW2, local gardens, and within the grounds of the Cathedral of the Isles.
There have been growing concerns around the globe about the significant drop in bee numbers, and its potential hazardous effect on humanity.
The Plan Bee Limited Group, an eco-innovation business which offers solution for organisations a fully managed beehive service, state on their website: “It has widely been professed that without bees that man would have only four years left on the planet.
“Without bees there would be no pollination, without pollination there would be no plants and without plants there would be no animals and no more food. Honey bees pollinate around a third of the foods that we eat. University of Reading research found that in the last 20 years around a half of the honey bee population has died through mites, climate, pesticides and disorders. This is compared with a 20 per cent drop in Europe. This decline has now been called a global phenomenon by the United Nations.”
Warren Cabader, Chief Executive of Plan Bee Limited, said: “A quantity of 10,000 bees is not that many in the great scheme of things, as during the winter one hive can hold 10,000 bees approximately, and sometimes up to 50,000 in the summer.
“It could be down to a number of things such as the Varroa parasite, or starvation, but probably the biggest reason is the Varroa destructor – a mite- which is a parasite in bees and can kill the colonies.
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“If there is no queen, then the colony will die, as the queen is the mainstay of the colony and if she is not laying eggs, there there is no reproduction, and she is the lynchpin of keeping the colony going. A queen bee can lay 2000 eggs in the height of summer, and in effect, keeps the hive going.
“The Varroa parasite is virulent, and no pharmaceutical company is making in-roads to finding a cure for it. If there was some chemical which could eradicate Varroa, we would be a lot better off with our bees.”
Councillor Tom Marshall, who is a keen beekeeper, commented: “If you end up with a hive that is quite weak then it can be attacked by wasps and other honey bees. Believe it or not, in strong hives, there are guard bees, which can attack a bumble bee or wasp and drag it out of the hive.
“The hive is significantly weakened when there is no queen, and other insects will try and raid the hive. If hives become weak, you can stick them together to make a stronger hive, but these parasites can kill them off. Beekeeping, and the production of honey, goes back to Roman times, and indeed, monks in abbeys.”
The Buckfast bee is a strain of honey bee. It is a man-made bee race, a cross of many strains of bees, developed by “Brother Adam”, (born Karl Kehrle on 3 August 1898 in Germany), who was in charge of beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey, where the bees are still bred today.