There’s probably no need to panic if you see dead bees at this time of the year - it’s most likely part of the natural life cycle.
That’s the verdict of bee keeper, inspector and advisor to the government’s Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture Harry Owens who said autumn was the time when thier natural life cycle tends to reach an end. He was speaking after a letter in this week’s Examiner raised concerns about the issue.
‘Bumble bees are coming to the end of their life cycles which starts in March when they emerge from hibernation and ends about September when they die off. That’s when people start to see dead bees around, and then the cycle starts again in the spring,’ he said.
For the honey bee, the life cycle is a little over 40 days but this year a number of bee colonies were killed off by the severe weather at the start of spring which delayed development by about five weeks.
In fact the island’s bee population remains in good health despite horror stories of the deadly varroa mite decimating bee populations in the UK and Asian hornets reaching the south coast of the UK and causing further grief to the English bees.
Mr Owens has been part of a two-year programme to certify every hive in the island varroa free, allowing legislation to be updated banning the import of bees to the island, keeping it disease free.
‘At the moment we don’t have a problem with disease or pesticides either because not a lot is used over here. We are in a much better position than in the UK,’ he said.
‘Very soon we should have official recognition in the island of our disease-free status.’
The native bee population in the Isle of Man - black bees - is generally hardier then in the UK, having evolved to survive the island’s often unfavourable climate.
Because a foraging honey bee will only fly around two miles and in any circumstances a bee is unlikely to cover more than eight miles, contamination from outside is unlikely without human intervention.
‘But if some idiot brought some bees in, there would be a disease epidemic within two years,’ Mr Owens said.
‘In countries where varroa is native, the bee populations can cope with it, but in the UK and Isle of Man, they have no resistance. It would completely change the way we do our bee keeping.’
Similarly, without human help, there is little likelihood of the Asian hornet reaching the Isle of Man, which is also something to be grateful for according to Mr Owens.
‘As few as just half a dozen of those can wipe out a whole colony of bees,’ he said.
‘Again, the Asian sub species of bees where the hornets originate, can deal with it but our native bees in the British Isles cannot. And they are pretty unpleasant for people too.’
A final word of warning for al fresco diners: avoid leaving open pots of honey or utensils out because traces of bacteria found in the honey can also infect our bees.