Why a British supermarket helps honey bees survive wintertime

The British supermarket Tesco has launched an initiative to feed honey bees struggling to overcome nectar shortage in wintertime with waste sugar. As environmental degradation and climate change continue, bees are facing major difficulties in surviving the cold months of the year. The species, however, is crucial for our food supply. A study by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) gives new insights on this topic. 

In an effort not only to help bees survive wintertime but also to reduce food waste, Tesco stores Cornwall and Devon collect discarded sugar from split bags and ship them to the Bee Improvement Programme for Cornwall. The sugar is used to make a sugar feed that serves as a substitute for nectar and honey.

Nowadays, bees are struggling to build up enough stocks on nectar during the summer, and thus face difficulties in wintertime to feed their colonies. This trend is mainly due to two reasons: First, pests, diseases and fewer wild flowers have led to a decline of about one third in the overall UK bee population since 2007. And secondly, recent poor summers have complicated harvesting enough nectar to get through the winter. 

The IPBES study shows that more than three-quarters of the world's food crops rely at least in part on pollination by insects and other animals. A decline in bee populations, caused by habitat loss, pesticides, pollution, invasive species, pathogens and climate change thus has immediate repercussions on world food supply.

The good news: The report also mentions policy options to fight bee extinction. By protecting natural environments and ecosystems, limiting the scope of intensive agriculture and finding alternatives to pesticides, significant progress can be achieved and bee populations saved. Let's get it done!