Category Archives: Farming

British bee population down again

bees on comb

The population of the UK’s honeybees continues to fall, with almost 20% of colonies dying last winter, according to figures from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA). The figure is an improvement on the 30.5% for winter 2007-08 but is way short of the 7-10% which until the last five years had been considered acceptable. Average national losses of 19.2% were highest in the north of England at 32.1%, and lowest 12.8% in the east of England. Mass bee deaths termed colony collapse disorder are blamed on disease possibly compounded by pesticides, changes in agriculture, and climate. Bees are estimated to be worth around £200m to the UK economy thanks to the job they do pollinating crops.

Sea-life choked by algae

Algae is thriving this warm wet British summer, choking the life out of the sea and mudflats. It’s a problem expected to grow in the future, and the only solution is to cut off the nutrients on which it thrives – sewage pollution or fertilisers leaking from farms. There is also concern about the toxicity of algae when it begins to rot.  Daily Telegraph

Urban beehives

The Beehaus

Urban beekeeping is becoming all the rage in Britain. Omlet offers rather attractive hives as pictured above, perfect for installation in a garden or rooftop. They claim the hive, the beehaus, is inspired by the way bees live in the wild and built on the classic principles of beekeeping. They also provide service and support to keep bees in your garden. They also say the beehaus is specially designed for keeping bees in your garden or rooftop. See also New plastic hive promises affordable beekeeping (Guardian)

Green roofs

When a million-strong swarm of ladybirds landed on Blackdown Horticultural farm recently, every time the staff ventured outside they were coated in insects. But the red cloud brought good publicity for their enterprise:  green roof installation.

The swarm had arrived to feast on aphids living on pesticide-free sedum plants, a staple of green roofs since these succulents are drought-resistant and thrive in well-drained conditions. Continue reading Green roofs

British apples

Britain’s climate is ideal for growing apples.  Some apple facts:

  • apples originated in the Tien-Shan mountains (on the China-Kazakhstan border)
  • Romans introduced them to Britain
  • the diversity of varieties (over 2,000 have been grown in Britain) largely stem from the Victorian and Edwardian period, an age of passionate gardeners and cross-pollinators
  • British apple varieties often have interesting names: Peasgood Nonsuch, Bloody Ploughman and Greasy Pippin
  • Ashmeads Kernel, which originated in England around 1700, is often singled out as an example of the pros and cons of the British apple. Pro – the taste.

“… the bite is a nutty snap, exploding with champagne-sherbet juice infused with a lingering scent of orange blossom. Stick me in Pseuds Corner if you like, but try one and you’ll see I’m right.” – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the Guardian

Con – the appearance.  Far from the uniform glossiness supermarkets seek in their apples, the Ashmead Kernel varies enormously in size and has a dull russet colour.   What’s more, it’s often covered in dark spots.

The future for British apples: public interest  in native apple varieties is growing, but orchard growers are worried about the declining bee population.

The photo of an Ashmeads Kernel is from Orange Pippin, web resource for apples and orchards

Manuka honey from Cornwall

Manuka Honey

Tregothnan Manuka honey is the only Manuka honey in the world produced outside of New Zealand. A pot will set you back from £55.00-£75.oo. Very small quantities of Manuka Honey are being produced from the original Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium)  plantations at the Tregothnan Home Estate. Visit

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Wine production in Britain

It’s thought that vineyards were first established in Britain in Roman times, and then revived after the Norman Conquest, when most wine-making was run by Benedictine monasteries, ostensibly for religious ceremonies.  The dissolution of the monasteries and the onset of the Little Ice Age were factors in the decline in viticulture, which is now enjoying a boom. Continue reading Wine production in Britain

British beekeeping statistics

It is estimated that there are 274,000 bee colonies in the UK. These produce an average of 6,000 tonnes of honey a year, managed by some 44,000 beekeepers. Honeybee numbers in the UK have fallen between 10 and 15% in the last two years due to colony collapse disorder.
The Guardian