To bee or not to bee? How beekeeping is putting bumble bees at risk

To bee or not to bee? How beekeeping is putting bumble bees at risk

By Paula Carnell

Large and fluffy with yellow and black stripes, the great yellow bumble bee is the iconic image we imagine when we think of a bee. Once common across the British Isles, sadly it’s now only found buzzing around remote patches of machair and wild areas in the Highlands and islands of Scotland.

While it’s vital that we work together to protect this environment for their continued survival, it is also essential that there is understanding of exactly which bees need saving and why … particularly as more and more people are becoming interested in supporting bees, as well as producing their own honey.

Every time a landowner decides to add a colony of bees, they risk the survival of our native and solitary bumble bees. If the introduction is not done in an informed way, with full understanding of the balance of nature, the bumble bees are forced to compete with another 50,000 hungry mouths to feed and that is not congruent with their natural way of bee-ing.

Professor Dr. Peter Neumann from the Institute of Bee Health at the University of Bern has even gone as far as to suggest that beekeepers themselves are the biggest threat to bees and that the wisdom of many conventional beekeeping practices should be addressed.

We can learn so much from the wellbeing of our favourite pollinators, after all if it’s our environment that is killing them, it must also be inadvertently impacting us! It is vital that we audit our native bees, especially before introducing or moving honey bees onto our land to support them to survive and thrive.

I am passionate about protecting the balance of nature, especially the areas that have stayed in harmony to date.

Let 2022 be the year when bees thrive, they are giving us so many messages and it’s about time we took heed from these wise bee-ings, and along with them, have healthier thriving humans too.

  • Paula Carnell is a Bee Consultant and honey sommelier who works with landowners and businesses who wish to incorporate bees and sustainable honey production into their projects. Working from Somerset UK, Paula’s clients include The Newt in SomersetLake District Honey Company, Wellbeing and business retreats in Wales and England, as well as projects in Madagascar, Mexico and Lebanon. For more information visit Paula’s website:

Fun facts

  • Spring is when many bees emerge to breed and pollinate. 

  • There are 22,000 species of bees in the world, 11 of which are honey bees

  • Here in the UK, there are 270 species, 50 less than 100 years ago, and only one honey bee, Apis mellifera.

Article posted on 06/06/2022