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The specialist international beekeeping organisation

Bees and ecology


Bees have a very close relationship with the wider environment. It is not adequate to consider only the bee hive or the apiary, we must understand how the bees relate and interact with the whole environment, where they are living and feeding.


Bees thrive in an environment which;

  • has adequate, varied and nutritious forage
  • has adequate nesting sites
  • is free from pollution and pesticides
  • has water

Pests and predators occur in most natural environments, but where these are indigenous, bees have become adapted to living with them and have developed survival mechanisms. Introduced pests and diseases present greater difficulties.


Bees are affected by the seasons and the weather. In temperate climates bees become inactive during the cold winter and remain within their nest feeding on stored honey. The period of inactivity may last for five months. In tropical climates periods of inactivity due to cold weather are usually shorter. Bees living in their natural environments are adapted to the local conditions. In the tropics flowers may be available for longer periods and at two or three different periods throughout the year. This means the bees can be active for longer, which may mean they produce more honey. However, they also swarm and migrate very frequently as the conditions are favourable for doing so, unlike in temperate regions where swarming is more high risk. For example, in Europe, a swarm which leaves the nest at the end of the summer may not have enough time or food to build up stores for winter before the cold sets in. 




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