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bruce 

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Does anyone know of any initiatives in the UK to increase the number of feral colonies of honey bees?
 

m100 

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The promotion of really bad beekeeping, leading to swarms. A bit of recession and lack of development of old buildings into yuppie flats helps too.

Of course in the main feral colonies probably won't survive continuously in one location as they succumb to varroa efb etc.
 

Firegazer 

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Bruce,
no, but I'd like to.

I have some protected woodland behind me, and I'd love to help breed a survivor strain of bee which could repopulate the woods and cope with varroa without medication.

FG
 

Midland Beek 

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Have you heard of those urban gardeners in London that secretly do up the long forgotten planters in the middle of some or other gyratory system?

I'd quite like to populate my home town with loads of simple beehives, like ones on high poles sunk into the ground of a roundabout.

But, no, I've not heard of any official projects. I think the main failing is one of disease inspection, and there is also the issue of nuisance swarms.
 
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bruce 

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Where I'm coming from with this is that the primary benefits of honeybees to the UK are environmental (through their pollination activities) and commercial (again through pollination activities). There appears to be a common view that without hobbyist and commercial bee keepers the impact of the apparent drop in feral bees numbers would be much more significant than currently observed. The expense of people keeping bees is probably not a sustainable way forward though and I do wonder if there are parallels with myxamatiosis here. Mixie wiped out 95% of rabbit population in the '50s. Now around 35% of rabbits survive it and there are plenty of rabbits around. If ferals are one possible way of breeding a more resistant bee then I wonder if we should be providing more opportunity for honey bees to nest in the wild? All the ferals I've come across to day have been nesting in man made structures - although that observation may be a feature of me having been called out to swarm collections. It makes me wonder if we should be setting up "bee boxes" in parks and Forestry Commission land in much the same way as we set up bird and bat boxes. They could be easily kicked started with a few swarms.

Re the point on feral colonies dying out. I agree. Some appear to last two or three seasons and during that time they'll have replicated (swarmed) several times so there's some value in them I think.
 
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bruce 

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I think the main failing is one of disease inspection, and there is also the issue of nuisance swarms.
I started off thinking the same - then it occurred to me that ferals are not currently inspected for disease - and if we did inspect and they were diseased what would we do? If we treated them or destroyed them it would defeat the object of having ferals. With regard to swarms, there are plenty of nuisance swarms about already but I think in the main they are a nuisance more because of public perception of things that sting. I've had 25 swarm calls so far this year and out of those only two had ever seen a swarm before. Once I've arrived at site and had a chance to show people that the swarm is relatively safe and explained what it going on people's attitude has changed from one of horror to fascination. I believe Springwatch did a piece on bee swarms recently which was hopefully accurate and may have changed a few perceptions.
 

Midland Beek 

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I think the idea of more feral colonies would horrify a good many beeks in respect of the AFB/EFB problem. Foulbrood is incomparable to something like myxymatosis in rabbits becaue it tends not to quickly kill infected colonies. Instaed, colonies harbour foulbrood and there is the potential for very widespread outbreaks of disease.

Destruction of feral colonies in areas with a foulbrood problem does happen.

In respect of foulbrood, reducing the number of feral colonies and not increasing them is perhaps likely to be best for the honeybee. But I still like the idea of populating all the road traffic islands in my hometown with bee houses.
 

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