Britain's Busy Bees

There are 20,000 different bee species in the world, less than 1.5% of which are found in Britain. The infographic below shows the number of bee species, highlighting their importance as pollinators. It then illustrates the work of beekeepers and honeybees in Britain, and the amount of honey they produce. The infographic demonstrates that the scale of honey production in Britain is small, requiring a lot of honey to be imported in order to meet demand.

Click on the infographic to enlarge it.

Britain's busy bees infographic

Bee species

Across the world, there are 20,000 species of bee, 10% of which are found in Europe. Of these, 271 different species can be found in Britain. Most of the world’s bees are solitary and this is reflected in Britain’s native population also, where around 250 of the 271 species are solitary. Unlike social bees, which live together in colonies, solitary bees nest individually and don’t have queen, drone or worker types. In Britain and Europe, there is only one species of honeybee (Apis mellifera). Honeybees produce honey for food and hoard it in hives.


Pollinators include bees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths, wasps and other insects. While cereal crops are generally pollinated by wind, high-value produce, such as soft fruits, vegetables, rapeseed and flowers, all rely on insect pollination. Bees are particularly important for boosting crop yields as they visit 90% of the main types of crop grown globally.


The most common bee species used in honey production by beekeepers across the world is the western honeybee (Apis mellifera). Most honeybees in Britain are managed by beekeepers, and wild honeybees are rare. In Britain, 47,000 beekeepers look after 264,000 hives. On average, this works out to 6 hives per beekeeper. This is low compared to the European Union average of 21 hives per beekeeper, suggesting that production in Britain is relatively small-scale.

Natural honey

Britain’s honeybees produce around 6,600 tons of natural honey per year, over half of which is destined for the export market. In contrast, Britain imports just under 50,000 tons of honey per year – as much as is made by Ethiopia, the world’s tenth largest producer. In the European Union, only Germany imports more. There appears to be scope to expand domestic production so that the supply of natural honey is more secure and less at the mercy of the effects of climate change and shifts in geo-politics.


The infographic employs a number of design techniques to display and guide the reader through the information. Icons of bees, hives and beekeepers are used to denote and compare the quantity of different elements. The jar of honey icon is scaled in size in order to contrast the volume of honey produced domestically with the volume traded.

The flight-path of the bee leads the reader through the infographic, starting at the global scale, with the number of bee species then ‘flying’, via pollination, to beekeeping and honey production at the domestic scale. The flight-path is also used as a graphic device to separate the top half of the infographic, which concerns all bee species, from the bottom half, which focuses on the honeybee.

‘Britain’ is used in this context to mean the United Kingdom. However, the opportunity to use the alliteration of the ‘B’ was too good to miss, and ‘Britain’s Busy Bees’ has the added attraction that it even sounds bee-like!


European Commission (2020). Honey Market Presentation. Agriculture & Rural Development.

IPBES (2017). The assessment report of the intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services on pollinators, pollination and food production. S.G. Potts, V. L. Imperatriz-Fonseca, and Ngo H. T. (eds.).

Klein, A.-M., Vaissière, B.E., Cane, J.H., Steffan-Dewenter, I., Cunningham, S.A., Kremen, C. & Tscharntke, T. (2007). Importance of pollinators in changing landscapes for world crops. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 274 (1608): 303–313.

This infographic appeared in JONO Design e-news. The e-news is published once every couple of months and each issue contains a specially designed infographic

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