Normally such waste sugar is simply thrown away, but after a conversation with some beekeepers, a Tesco store manager had the idea of donating the sugar from his store. Lacy Hughes, community manager at Callington, Cornwall, said, “Bees are not only central to the process of pollinating crops which later become our food but are an iconic part of the great British countryside”. It is hoped that similar schemes can be extended across the country as other supermarkets also dump broken bags of sugar.
Bees are often fed a sugary syrup in winter. Although they generally hibernate, on mild days they can become active, using up their stores of energy. If the winter is mild bees are too active and can easily starve as commercial beekeepers often leave them with minimal stores of honey. Now that climate change is bringing much milder weather on average, the problem of active bees in winter is becoming more acute. There are very few flowers or opportunities for bees to forage in winter so beekeepers must be vigilant. Over-winter losses have been heavy in recent years and combined with summer losses through chemical exposure and increased disease risk, beekeepers have been having a tough time of it.
The initiative ties in well with food waste reduction targets. Supermarkets are under pressure to reduce food waste from both members of the public and government bodies, having been criticised for contributing through over-exacting fruit and vegetable standards and below-cost selling. Ireland has waste management regulations which became law in 2009, but we still waste 1m tonnes of food each year. Perhaps there is scope for some pioneering supermarkets here to follow suit.