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Monday, August 3, 1998 Published at 03:37 GMT 04:37 UK


Desperate race to save honey bee

The campaign is on to save the British honey bee

Bee keepers in the UK have launched a week-long campaign to stop the country's honey bees being wiped out by a parasite.

The Varroa mite was first discovered in Devon and Cornwall six years ago but has since spread across the country. It is thought that up to half the UK's hives may already have been destroyed by the mite.

Bee keepers are now hoping that concerted action throughout the UK to tackle the mite with pesticides this week will save the bee.

The tiny blood-sucking parasite attacks the bees before they are hatched. As the bees then grow, so does the parasite. The bees then slowly weaken and become ill with disease.

'No wild colonies left in London'

[ image: Robert Carpenter-Turner: No wild bees colonies left in London]
Robert Carpenter-Turner: No wild bees colonies left in London
Robert Carpenter-Turner, of the British Bee Keepers Association, warned that concerted action must be taken now to save the bee from the Varroa.

"Untreated, it will totally wipe out British honey bees," he said.

"The feral - or wild - colonies are completely disappearing. We have no wild colonies of bees in London at all at the moment."

'Crops need bees'

[ image: Kevin Stevens: UK Bees pollinate £700bn worth of crops]
Kevin Stevens: UK Bees pollinate £700bn worth of crops
The amount of honey produced in the UK is only small, but experts believe the effect of the parasite on farming could be more serious.

Pesticides expert Kevin Stevens said that in the UK bees "are responsible for pollinating about £700bn worth of agricultural crops."

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