Mild autumn leaves bees all a-buzz in Jersey

Tuesday 22nd Nov 2011 by theWeather Club

Image: Maciek mono

Much as us lesser-winged creatures might be enjoying this year’s softly-softly approach to winter, beekeepers in Jersey have expressed serious concern over the effects the mild weather is having on their buzzing little helpers. Monitoring their behaviour closely over the past few months President of the Jersey Bee Keepers Association Bob Tomkins said his bees appeared to be acting as if it was “still late summer”.

"All these insects need a specific time of cold weather so they can get themselves ready for the early spring for their particular breeding time,” he told the BBC.

"It's the cold weather that should really trigger them, so they're not really actually into that mode at all yet.”

Not only is this affecting the breeding patterns within the apiary, but the prolonged warm stretch is also attracting an increasing number of European species over to the island to compete with native insects. Harlequin ladybirds, an invasive Asian species which has caused mass insecticide among the ladybirds of north-west Europe, are being found in ever increasing numbers inside Jersey’s hives: preying on local ladybirds and having a domino effect down the rest of the food chain.

"It is really tilting the balance on a whole series of insects, this weather,” continued Tomkins, “as well as things like bumblebees which would normally be going into hibernation.”

Far from concentrating on the important business of hibernation, Queen bees are active and eating, lulled into the false sense of security by the warmth. It’s a source of real concern to beekeepers like Tomkins - “they're eating into their fat supplies that would see them through the winter months” he explains - and the longer the cold weather stays its hand, the more problems will be stored up: both for the bees and for the people whose livelihoods depend on them.