Fears over future of Suffolk honey

FEARS have been raised over the future of Suffolk honey because the appalling summer weather has led to a dramatic drop in the number of bees.

Craig Robinson

FEARS have been raised over the future of Suffolk honey because the appalling summer weather has led to a dramatic drop in the number of bees.

The annual English honey harvest has dropped to half of its normal level this year - with some beekeepers in the county seeing numbers in their apiaries drop by as much as two thirds.

The poor summer weather has compounded the effects of the sudden and unexplained collapse in the number of British honey bees, leading to concerns they could be extinct within five years.

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This has increased fears that English honey could disappear altogether unless the dramatic decline in bee colonies is reversed.

Initial estimates show that English hives produced just 6,000 tons of honey this year - half the usual annual level.

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Roy Ramsey, who lives in Ipswich and has kept bees for more than 50 years, said the last 12 months have been the worst he has experienced.

“My own honey crop is down by two thirds,” he said. “In some apiaries I've just had to completely write it off because of the circumstances.

“It's the way things have gone this season. I've been keeping bees for 50-plus years and in all that time the last three have been the most difficult.”

Mr Ramsey, 73, who has 30 hives - which should each house around 50,000 bees - sells his honey to local retailers.

“If things continue as they are the price of honey will go up and it will become a luxury item,” he said. “There's no doubt there's a shortage. People I have spoken to are seeing losses of between 60 and 80% of their swarms. I honestly don't know the way forward. Things are happening now that haven't before - because of the weather we've had this summer it's been incredibly hard.”

The problem is not just being felt by beekeepers - retailers are also experiencing difficulties and some are even starting to ration their supplies.

Simon Clay, proprietor of the Suffolk Larder in Friston, near Aldeburgh - which sells pure Suffolk honey - said this year had been “disastrous”.

“We don't keep bees ourselves but we work very closely with those who do and I know that Suffolk has been particularly badly hit,” he said. “The wet, windy weather this summer has caused real problems.

“We have had absolutely no pure Suffolk honey at all from our regular supplier and they have around 120 hives. It's disastrous.

“Fortunately they have had some left over from last year that they have let us have but we've actually started rationing it. When that runs out that will be it - it's the worst year we've had.”

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