By Charles Wade-Palmer
One man and his homemade laboratory is attempting to save the world’s bee population- one insemination at a time.
Michael Waite, 53, is one of the few beekeepers around the globe who is speeding up reproduction in his hives by manually inseminating queen bees.
Michael who runs a popular Youtube vlog under the name of the Beeman is desperate to restore bee numbers which he says have taken a dangerous slump.
Michael who lives with his wife Suzanne, 43, said: “The bee population in this country has depleted by 15 to 20 per cent due to varroa mite and climate change so what we do is breed queen bees because that’s what beekeepers need for their livelihoods.
“It’s always a massive problem getting queen bees mating these days.
“For the last six years we’ve been doing the artificial insemination of the bees and training beekeepers worldwide on how to do it.”
Yorkshire man Michael who moved to Corsock in Castle Douglas, Scotland to swap a life in the city for one with bees and has now become a world leader in breeding queen bees.
The beeman has helped to produce millions of bees by extracting semen by hand and inseminating it into a queen bee.
He says this manual intervention has become the final chance to bring bee numbers back up after the killer parasite varroa mite and colder summers making it hard for bees to mate.
Michael said: “I’ve been interested in bees for the last 30 years. I used to work in IT but it got to a point that we got sick of working in the rat race in London.
“We went up to Scotland and started a hobby keeping bees. It was getting harder and harder to keep bees- not just in this country but worldwide so I decided to see what I could do about it.
“With the climate changing it’s making it extremely hard for the queen to get mated. They need temperatures between 16 to 17 degrees celsius and little wind for a mating flight.
“The last four or five years hasn’t been good enough for the mating flying because of the wet and windy weather.”
Michael’s tutorials on his extreme beekeeping are watched by thousands on his channel Beeman tv but people still flock from as far as down under to learn face to face.
Graphic videos zoomed in on the process of extracting sperm from a male bee to a queen bee using a pipette are not for the squeamish.
Michael said “Insemination has been around since the 1940s but there aren’t many people who do it.
“We’re one of the only ones in Europe to do it and also as one of the only ones in the world we train about 50 people a year in it and they’ll come from every country.
“Normally we’re booked up to Christmas and then we’ll travel to different countries to take our expertise on tour.
“It’s such a massive issue in New Zealand as well. They’ve probably got a lot more bees than us but they’re really struggling to produce bees for their hives.
“Over the next hundred years if we don’t start changing now the honey bee could become extinct. We’re not that far from that now, it’s very serious.
“We breed around 3,000 queen bees a year and about 1,000 of those are inseminated go on to produce many other bees.
“One queen bee can go on to produce one billion bees from 1.7 million eggs. It’s absolutely staggering the numbers of bees that one queen can produce.
Bees are said to be crucial for the survival of the human race because they pollinate a third of our global food supply such as plants and crops in our daily diet.