There’s no doubt that bees are riding a wave of popularity. And nowhere more so than in London. That’s great news.
But there’s a problem just around the corner. The coming crisis is that London’s bees don’t have enough to eat. And bees can’t eat kind words.
There are some 3,225 beehives in a 10 kilometre radius around our Bermondsey Street apiary, according to the National Bee Unit. That many hives requires 80 tonnes of nectar and 16 tonnes of pollen, each year, just to survive. That’s the equivalent of 60 refuse truckfulls of nectar and 12 of pollen. That’s a big ask in an intensely urban environment.
Fortunately, London is rich in green spaces which have been able to support the doubling of London’s hive population over the last 10 years. But London’s capacity to feed an exponentially growing bee population is not infinite. The fact that London has come bottom of the British Beekeepers’ Association table of UK regional honey yields in 2 of the last 3 years tells us that London already has a forage crisis.
To raise awareness of this crucial issue, The Apis Forage Index (AFI) is a breakthrough. Up to now, there has been no common language to describe the most important factor in beekeeping: what the bees will have to eat.
The AFI fills that gap. It’s a user-friendly, ready-reckoner, available on-line for a free assessment of the forage value of a potential apiary site. Just click on the AFI site, follow the instructions, enter your 10 responses and see your percentage score: an AFI reading over 50% means that your site is viable from a forage perspective, under 50% means that you should think again, or introduce a quantity of local forage before installing a beehive.
The Apis Forage Index is designed to make people consider the forage aspect of beekeeping before they plonk down a beehive. If we succeed in raising awareness of the forage issue in London, we will have taken a crucial step together on the road to responsible and sustainable beekeeping. And remember: bees can’t eat kind words.