Safeguarding the Genetic Diversity of the Honey Bee

Pollinators play an essential role in our food system, with an estimated three quarters of crops depending on them. Yet, due in part to the impacts of intensive farming practices, their numbers are in decline. Here, beekeeper and Chair of the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association, Jo Widdicombe, looks at the issue of genetic diversity and why it is critical to safeguarding the future of one of our key crop pollinators – the honey bee.

In the last 50 years, we have seen a decline in many insect populations including some bumble bee and solitary bee species. In 1992, the varroa mite was found to have reached Britain and the number of honey bee colonies and beekeepers declined rapidly. After a campaign by British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), and others, highlighting the plight of the honey bee, the number of beekeepers and colonies started to rise again.