The importance of the humble honey bee as a plant pollinator to the survival of the human race cannot be overstated and since the mid-1990s they’ve been under attack by the varroa mite, a parasite that infects hives and has killed off huge numbers.
But, apocalyptic visions of crop failure and mass starvation across the planet could be avoided if a new mite resistant bee bred by Ron Hoskins of Swindon Honeybee Conservation Group over several years can be established in large numbers.
Ron explained that the use of pesticides to remove parasitic infections is undesirable, not only because the chemicals involved can do more harm than good to the bees in the hives, but also because the mites are showing signs of resistance to them.
Swindon beekeepers at the conservation group’s Stanton apiary took the drastic decision in 2001 to halt the use of chemicals in their hives altogether. Despite losing around 50 per cent of the colonies as a result, the group discovered bees in the surviving hives had developed the hygienic ability to groom each other free of the mites, and destroy infected larvae.
Ron is now launching a pioneering approach to spread the population of hygienic bees amongst experienced beekeepers in the Swindon district. He said, “We need sponsorship to fund the provision of nucleus hives to committed apiarists in the area, so that they can begin to establish new, stronger colonies.”
The Adopt-a-Hive sponsorship scheme is appealing for individuals, organisations or companies to donate £350 to obtain all the equipment required for one nucleus kit. In return, every sponsor will be credited with a plaque to be displayed on one of the hives at Stanton Park Apiary, which is open to the public.
The conservation group hopes to distribute at least 20 nucleus kits to local beekeepers in time for the breeding season starting in May, so that the genetic footprint of hygienic bees can begin to establish itself.
Chris Deaves of the British Beekeepers’ Association believes that Hoskins’ method could be more successful than the more ambitious breeding programmes carried out in Europe and the United States. He said, “he’s trying to cover a small area well, rather than spreading it over a large area thinly.”
Ron added, “over time, and with careful monitoring, the area covered by the hygienic bee will be gradually expanded, in what could be a crucial turnaround for bee populations the world over.”
To get involved in Adopt-a-Hive, contact Ron Hoskins on 525364, or mail: email@example.com
Ron Hoskins was one of the local faces featured as part of large scale comic form exhibition in 2002 sponsored by Asda Walmart following its opening. Ron’s giant image by the Kartoon Kings Simon Grennon and Christopher Sporandio toured the town on a Thamesdown Transport double decker for a year. The artists were pictured by The Link in front of large boards displayed in the store