Honeybees need beekeepers. There are no feral honey bee colonies left as they simply cannot survive a varroa infestation or diseases that they would be exposed to without the beekeeper's assistance. However it is often wrongly assumed that beekeeping is putting a hive at the end of your garden, waiting for a swarm of bees to take up residence – and then reaping the reward of weekly jars of honey!
This is not the case. Less demanding than a dog, but more commitment than feeding wild birds, beekeeping is an evolving hobby that requires dedication, time and the effort to learn. Bees need their keeper to treat for varroa, to regularly inspect for diseases, to manage swarming, to ensure they have enough stores and to protect them from the environment such as the weather, wild animals – and possibly the public. It is an ongoing role.
The advent of climate change appears to be making life harder for honey bees. Wet summers prevent foraging, so the bees do not pollinate or gather nectar – this means they can't build their own honey stores for winter. The intensification of agriculture has seen a reduction of wild flower sites – as has council-driven demand for neat borders. The use of certain pesticides has added to the reduction in wild flower numbers but has also, it is suspected, inadvertently led to the poisoning of colonies as the surrounding flora is accidentally touched with pesticides and honey bees return this to their hive. Of particular concern is the group of pesticides called neonicotinoids.