Following on from my post last week on historical changes in honey bee numbers in Britain, I decided to add the two extra, earlier data points to the graph just to illustrate what they mean for our understanding in how honey bee numbers may (or may not) have changed over the last 100 years.
The first data point is the Bailey & Perry (1982) estimate of 800,000 hives in the 1920s (which I’ve placed at 1929) that, as I mentioned, I think is wrong in terms of how they did the calculation.
The second data point is of 32,500 hives in 1919. It’s from the article that Andrew Hubbard drew my attention to, which seems to be a fairly solid government statistic, or at least no less solid that much of the other government stats (unless anyone knows any better).
If we accept the 800,000 figure at face value then we see a massive increase in number of hives of over 76,000 new hives per year between 1919 and 1929. And remember that’s being conservative as to what “the 1920s” meant to Bailey & Perry; if we peg the date at 1925 then we’re talking more than 127,000 hives being added to the British stock every year. In my opinion that’s not a feasible proposition.
A much more likely scenario is that the number of hives grew during the second quarter of the 20th century and reached a peak in numbers at some point between the 1940s and 1950s. That’s an increase of around 13,000 hives per year. It’s still a lot, but is not unreasonable in light of post-World War 1, and subsequently World War 2, agricultural reforms that I highlighted in my post about British bee and flower-visiting wasp extinctions. I’ve termed that “Jeff’s speculation” in the figure above because, in the absence of hard data, that’s all it can be.
As always, I welcome your comments.