Shropshire's bee keepers say the prolonged cold weather is having a disastrous effect on the county’s bee population, one that is set to devastate the honey harvest and affect everyone in the county, from farmers to shoppers.
Brian Goodwin, president of the Shropshire Bee Keepers Association, said: “If there is no sign of spring in the next two or three weeks we will all have a tremendous disaster on our hands.”
There are currently 1,500 bee keepers in Shropshire, and Mr Goodwin warned that everyone in the county – gardeners, farmers and shoppers – would feel the effects of the loss of bee colonies.
Crops reliant on bees for pollination include: apples, pears, raspberries, plums, cherries, carrots and onions.
However, it’s not just fruit and vegetables; alfalfa, a major cattle crop, is 90 per cent reliant on pollination by bees.
The damage to the hives could mean the loss of crops and, ultimately, a shortage of produce and a drastic price rise at the tills.
Mr Goodwin said: “Bee keepers open up the hives when temperatures reach 15c but with March recording sub-zero temperatures we are running at least five weeks late and are anxiously waiting for the first sign of spring.”
Beekeepers have described this as their most difficult year yet. In a typical season, bees would leave the hive in early March to find their own food and begin to pollinate flowers.
But the recent weather has been so cold bees are confined to the hives and do not have enough food to survive.
Losses are recorded as complete hives that have died out over the winter.
Up to 25,000 bees can live in each hive.
In previous years, UK bee keepers have recorded an annual loss of 5-10 per cent of their hives. But this year Shropshire Bee Keepers are predicting losses of up to a third, which Mr Goodwin described as ‘devastating’.
He said: “Nature relies on the clockwork process of the four seasons.
“Gardeners will have noticed the lack of bees already and anyone who grows peaches or plums will notice their plants have blossomed but there are no bees out to pollinate the flowers.”
He added: “If we do not see an improvement in the weather in the next few weeks, this will affect apple and pear crops too.
“As a result of this, farmers could lose entire fruit crops which will be disastrous to their livelihoods and shoppers will notice a drastic price rise in shops.”