Beekeeping in Europe facing climate change: A mixed methods study on perceived impacts and the need to adapt according to stakeholders and beekeepers

Marie Van Espen, James Henty Williams, Fátima Alves, Yung Hung , Dirk C. de Graaf, Wim Verbeke

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Abstract

The beekeeping sector is suffering from the detrimental effects of climate change, both directly and indirectly. Despite numerous studies conducted on this subject, large-scale research incorporating stakeholders' and beekeepers' perspectives has remained elusive. This study aims to bridge this gap by assessing the extent to which stakeholders involved in the European beekeeping sector and European beekeepers perceive and experience the impacts of climate change on their operations, and whether they had to adapt their practices accordingly. To this end, a mixed-methods study including in-depth stakeholder interviews (n = 41) and a pan-European beekeeper survey (n = 844) was completed within the frame of the EU-funded H2020-project B-GOOD. The development of the beekeeper survey was informed by insights from literature and the stakeholder interviews. The results highlighted significant regional disparities in the perceived impacts of climate change, with beekeepers in Southern European regions expressing more negative outlooks, while Northern European beekeepers reported more favourable experiences. Furthermore, survey analysis revealed beekeepers who were classified as ‘heavily impacted’ by climate change. These beekeepers reported lower average honey yields, higher colony winter loss rates and a stronger perceived contribution of honey bees to pollination and biodiversity, underscoring climate change's detrimental impacts on the beekeeping sector. Multinomial logistic regression revealed determinants of the likelihood of beekeepers being classified as ‘heavily impacted’ by climate change. This analysis indicates that Southern European beekeepers experienced a 10-fold likelihood of being classified as heavily impacted by climate change compared to Northern European beekeepers. Other significant factors distinguishing ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ were self-reported level of professionalism as a beekeeper (ranging from pure hobbyist to fully professional, Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.31), number of years active in beekeeping (OR = 1.02), availability of floral resources throughout the bee season (OR = 0.78), beehives located in a forested environment (OR = 1.34), and the presence of local policy measures addressing climate change-related challenges (OR = 0.76).
Original languageEnglish
Article number164255
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume888
Number of pages12
ISSN0048-9697
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

Keywords

  • Apiculture
  • Apis mellifera
  • Climate adaptation
  • Perception
  • Pollinators decline

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