Below are some frequently asked questions about the scheme and their answers.
Click on a question to see the answer.
Improved grassland is what dominates most of the UK. It typically comprises a small number of species (not necessarily sown) -particularly rye grass and white clover- and normally has fertiliser added to it to increase its productivity. It is effectively what the majority of cattle are grazed on and is floristically very species poor. That said, while clover is a flowering plant and honeybees will feed on it. However, compared to traditional grasslands (like hay meadows or chalk grasslands) they are very species poor and of much lower value to insect pollinators.
We have archived one of your honey samples and hope to analyse some of these for pesticide residue analysis when resources become available. Therefore you will not currently receive pesticide results from your honey alongside other results on your webpage.
Percentage cover of different broad habitats within a 2km radius around the hive location. Habitats are derived from satellite imagery from the CEH Land Cover Map 2015 (for more details go to www.ceh.ac.uk/services/land-cover-map-2015).
Percentage cover of different crop types on agricultural land (arable and horticulture and improved grassland) within a 2km radius around the hive location. Crops are derived from satellite radar data from the CEH Land Cover® plus: Crops datasets (for more details go to www.ceh.ac.uk/services/land-cover-map-2015). Where the total area of agricultural land is small (see habitat chart), this may be dominated by a single crop which occupies all the available agricultural land. Note that improved grassland can include amenity grassland which would not normally be considered a crop but which is heavily managed (e.g. parks, sports pitches, golf courses).
There are no restrictions in terms of who can be part of the scheme, we are happy for both amateur and professional bee keepers to be involved. Our only requirements are that you can provide us with honey collected from a single location (i.e. not blended from multiple apiaries from different sites) and that you are willing to provide us with the additional supporting information on location, hive productivity and diseases we ask for.
Although our goal is to analyse all honey samples, like every other project we are limited by funding. In some cases we may need to either undertake a reduced number of analyses or in extreme cases archive the sample for future research. It is likely we will prioritise samples based on their location, as some regions have fewer bee keepers and so we have less information about what is in the honey of those areas.
All your personal information will be kept totally confidential and be treated in a manner that the meets all legal requirements. Although we will analyse data we never give exact locations of sites so that, at most, people would know a hive originates from a 10×10 km area.
The overall data set will be maintained and curated by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (see ASSIST). As part of our goals to support National capability we aim to provide resources for the wider community, which will include scientists, industry, NGO’s and anyone else. Data will be available to this wider community at a resolution that ensures the individual who provided us with samples remain anonymous and within a time frame that reflects the practicalities of processing large numbers of samples.
Although for funding reasons we may not be able to analyse every single honey sample (see related) we will provide you with results for any analyses we undertake. These may include assessments using DNA approaches of what you bees feed on and what pesticides they are exposed to.
For each batch of honey we aim to collect two sample tubes of honey (each about 50 ml). One of these we will use for immediate analysis, the other will be frozen. If, in the future, scientists are interested in re-examining honey from the past this sample will be available. For example, people may want to understand how a new disease has spread and may use DNA approaches to assess this.
No, the work undertaken though the National Honey Monitoring Scheme is independent from work undertaken by FERA linked to honeybees. We have no formal link with them and confidential information provided to us from you will not be given to them.
At the moment we are not part of a formal certification process but are providing you the results for personal interest.
We will always strive to analyse at least one honey sample you provide us in a single year using DNA approaches to identify what plants your bees have been feeding on. Pesticide residue analysis is more expensive and may need to target our sampling into areas of particular concern. We will always archive all honey samples so that if future resources become available they may be analysed at a later date.
We hope that you will be able to provide us with two honey samples a year, ideally one early (end of spring) and one late (main end of summer harvest). By providing more than one sample we will get information on both different forage plants that are in flower and pesticides that are applied at different times of the year.
Due to financial resources you will be able to submit two honey samples a year. Remember, you will need to submit the first honey sample before we will send you a pack for the second sample.
Honeybees are sensitive to many forms of environmental stress, and each of these may have an impact on bee health. Bees that have access to a poor diet due to the absence of good floral resources in the landscape (we will assess this using DNA approaches) or are exposed to pesticides (we will assess this by chemical residue analysis) may be more likely to suffer from disease. If you provide us with information on the health of your bees we can start to understand this relationship and how it operates at national scales.
There are lots of different ways to assess how healthy and productive a hive is. In an ideal world every hive would have the number of bees counted by the Liebefeld method or weighted on a daily basis. Obviously we can’t do this due to the scale of this study. However, if you provide us with information on how much honey a hive has produced (or how much honey all of your hives produce as long as you tell us how many hives this information is based on) we can use this as a proxy for the colony strength of your hive.
As honeybees will forage over large distances if hives are closer than 3 km they cannot be considered to be statistically independent. This means that it would be hard for us to analyse the data and we would need to ignore one of your hives. To prevent this problem from the outset we have placed this 3 km restriction within the mapping system.
One of our key goals is to link what we find in the honey (pesticides, pollen) to what the bees have been feeding on in the surrounding landscape. For this reason we are interested specifically in the hive from which you collect the honey sample from. Many of you will have an ‘apiary’ where you move hives to at some points in the year, keeping hives in other locations. For us the length of time the apiary has been at a location is not important, only how long the hive from which you sampled the honey has been at a given site.
When we are assessing pesticide residues in honeybee hives its important for us to know if the bees have been foraging in that location for a sufficient length of time that we would expect them to be exposed to chemicals applied to the local landscape. If a hive has only just been moved to a location (i.e. within a few months) then information on the pesticide residues found within the honey it produces may not be reliably allocated to that site. Similarly, once a hive has been at a location for more than a year from our perspective we can treat the location data as reliable (its not important if its been at that site for 1 or 5 years as we can reliably say any pesticide residues found in the honey are from the surrounding landscape).
It is fine to provide us with honey samples from different locations, however, it is important that you fill in the form to tell us how long that hive has been at that site.