We are all being encouraged to ‘be nice’ to bees, and there has been a big increase in beekeeping in the past few years. But according to a survey at Perivale Wood Local Nature Reserve, the honeybees there might be bad news.
There have been hives of honeybees at Perivale Wood for decades, and they have become part of the establishment. Perivale Wood honey is much sought after at the annual Open Day, selling out within an hour of the start.
Last year the Selborne Society, which owns and maintains the wood, had a professional survey done of the ‘aculeate hymenoptera’ – bees and wasps to you and me. Our surveyor said he found lots of honeybees foraging on the wild flowers in Perivale Wood, but far fewer wild bees and wasps, both in terms of individuals and numbers of species, than he would expect from a site of this size and quality. He says this is due to the honeybees crowding out and out-competing the wild bees and wasps. The honeybees probably suppress other invertebrates as well – many other insects also use flowers. He recommends that we remove the hives from the reserve.
This all goes to show that ecology and conservation are rarely simple. It also illustrates the need for high-quality wildlife surveys. Otherwise we could act with the best intentions but harm our wildlife instead of helping it.