Why the honey diet is bad news for our bees

Yesterday the Daily Mail published a letter of mine in response to a feature they ran:

Why the honey diet is bad news for our bees 

(Daily Mail, Tuesday, December 10, 2013)

Women are urged to 'drop a dress-size' for the party season by having a spoonful of honey before bedtime (Mail) - but I would say 'don't'.

Bees are struggling. Honey yields have dropped from more than 100lb per hive in the 1800s to about 25lb in the past five years, according to British Beekeeping Association annual surveys.

In the Seventies when I was ten, you could still get 80lb of honey on average per hive. I'd be very surprised if you could now get a maximum of 40lb without killing the bees.

There's already precious little honey for the bees themselves. When bees starve, they kill the males and pupae first. Any bee can ask another bee to share food, which they always do - and the last bee to die is the queen.

Bees are in serious decline due to pesticides, diseases, chemical treatments for mites, mono crops and exploitation for honey. All bees' problems can be traced back to humans. Bees stripped of honey by beekeepers are often fed sugars or corn syrups, which weaken their natural defences.

By far the worst drop in honey yield has been over the past 20 years. The queen bees, who used to mate reliably when I kept bees as a child, are no longer able to do so. Before you buy honey, ask how it was made. Was the bees own honey removed and replaced with sugar? Were the bees treated with chemicals and acid washes to remove mites?

There are bee-friendly beekeepers who treat their bees with respect and care but their numbers are very small. Treat honey as something as precious as it to the bees - don't consume it simply to drop a dress size.

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