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Remembered Today:

British Bees


Neil Mackenzie
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On an episode of QI I saw today they said that British bees were totally wiped out in WW1. Is this true and are there any bee fanciers who can add more?

Thanks.

Neil

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Why would British bees be wiped out in WWI?

Surely the fighting over there wouldn't affect the bees over here? - even the use of gas wouldn't affect them.

Am I missing something here? (probably)

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There's been a lot of stuff in the news over the past year or so about a decline in the British bee population - and, indeed, in world wide bee populations. So it would seem unlikely that if the entire British bee population had been wiped out during the Great War that that fact wouldn't have been mentioned in some of the coverage, along with the story of how it was resurrected. Tell QI to buzz off.

ciao,

GAC

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'Totally wiped out' seems like the usual exaggeration. Surely there were bees on leave, course, attending to the Queen, etc. And there would have been a nucleus.

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Found this on the QI forums!

markvent

190637. Thu Jul 12, 2007 4:00 pm Reply with quote

Ameena wrote:

There was also that factoid brought up by someone (can't remember whom) in one episode of QI (can't remember which but think it might've been Series C...) about the British bee being one of the lesser-known casualties of World War I, having all died out and new ones being imported from different countries to replace them. I'm not sure if "British bee" refers to honey bees or bumble bees or what, but there you go... ;)

Howard Goodall said that in Series A - he said that "all the bees in England got a terrible cold during the First World War and practically died out. And they imported Mexican bees, and bees from all over everywhere else, er, to start bees again. So all the bees that you think are ethnic British bees--"

It was around 1900 when british bees began dying off, the cause was found to be the tracheal mite. The microscopic mite resides in the bee's windpipe, where it feeds and reproduces. Female young climb out and onto the ends of the bee's hairs, where they are spread by contact with other bees. Affected bees are weakened, though it may take an outside stress such as another disease or poor weather before large scale damage results. However Howard is wrong on one point.

Originally the problem was diagnosed as "Isle of Wight Disease" but it was later acknowledged that it was the tracheal mite, acarine, that was causing the decline in the bee population. The first incidents of this disease appeared in 1904 on the Isle of Wight. In the course of a very few years the official figures show that 95% of the colonies of bees in Great Britain had been wiped out through this disease. The epidemic reached its height between 1914 and 1916, of course at the time of this outbreak the country was at war with Germany, sugar was scarce and honey was in great demand. Bees were also needed for pollination for fruit and vegetable crops. Holland had great numbers of skeps of bees for sale and these were purchased as part of the government's restocking programme. Since the Dutch bee was known to be given to swarming, it was the practice to requeen colonies with Italian queens, which at the time were cheap and easily obtainable.

Honey Farming by R.O.B. Manley has a good "eye-witness account".

Mark.

:)

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The press in the US usually refers to the severe decline in US bees in the last few years as a new phenonemon, but I have seen reference to it as something that has occurred periodically for at least 100 years. The post above referring to mites sound authorative, but I am no expert. However, my spousal unit's family keep bees on their Vermont farm, and harvest maple sugar, and we get a welcome present of both every Christmas. Also their own sawmill. A self-reliant group; came to New England from the Midlands in 1634.

Bob Lembke

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You're welcome Neil, but I am not Mark. Mark being the one who gave the explanation on QI.

My fault - I should have signed off!

There does seem to be a hive of activity in here, so I'll make a beeline for the exit and try not to cause confusion in future posts!

Ruth

:blush:

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Forgot to add -

There has been much talk over the last couple of years about the British bees being under threat.

What is now known as the British bee must really be dutch, if it is correct that 95% of British bees were wiped out by 1916. Or could they be half Dutch, half Italian if an Italian Queen was used? :unsure:

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Forgot to add -

There has been much talk over the last couple of years about the British bees being under threat.

What is now known as the British bee must really be dutch, if it is correct that 95% of British bees were wiped out by 1916. Or could they be half Dutch, half Italian if an Italian Queen was used? :unsure:

I think that they would be mainly Italian as an Italian queen added to a hive of Dutch bees would produce Italian drones and princesses, the worker bees adding nothing to the genetic pool being all infertile females - so those bees you see buzzing around are all Capronis, Macchis and Fiats (not Fokkers). Its a good thing no one told Mr Churchill who liked a bit of honey on his toast when he was PM.

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Well thought out, Centurion!

By the end of the war the whole bee population in Britain would most likely have been Italian.

That would explain why they don't understand me telling them to buzz off! :)

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You're welcome Neil, but I am not Mark. Mark being the one who gave the explanation on QI.

My fault - I should have signed off!

There does seem to be a hive of activity in here, so I'll make a beeline for the exit and try not to cause confusion in future posts!

Ruth

:blush:

Oops - sorry Ruth.

Neil

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I would like to be the first to propose a memorial to the bees who fell. Can somebody call the chap who did the Longueval piper?

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aaah, right. So it was a mite which caused them to die off, not the war!!

Yes, it has turned out to be an interesting thread.

Let's hope the current 'crisis' with the bees is resolved as easily.

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Captivating thread.

anyone know how the great war affected the bees in France, Belgium or other theatres? There are not many bees around Longueval this year. Don't blame the Piper Memorial !

Regards

John

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Can somebody call the chap who did the Longueval piper?

NO !!!!!!!!!!!! Bee-gone!

Ron

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I am disappointed with the lack of response to my proposal for the National Bee Memorial but am nevertheless continuing the concept development. The memorial will be on a monumental scale and consist of a two and a half times life-size representation of a queen bee. Beneath will be inscribed the lines by Rupert Brooke: ‘And is there honey still for tea?’

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I am disappointed with the lack of response to my proposal for the National Bee Memorial but am nevertheless continuing the concept development. The memorial will be on a monumental scale and consist of a two and a half times life-size representation of a queen bee. Beneath will be inscribed the lines by Rupert Brooke: 'And is there honey still for tea?'

Hive you got an address for subscriptions? I don't want to bee stung by sending my money to the wrong place.

Regards

John

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