London is killing bees with kindness.
Good for the bees, right? Not quite. At such densities, there simply isn’t enough pollen currently available in Greater London to feed the bees, argue University of Sussex scientists Francis Ratnieks and Karin Alton.
Ratnieks and Alton calculate that each additional beehive in London needs enough pollen produced by 1 hectare (2.47 acres) of borage or 8.3 hectares (20.5 acres) of lavender. “Clearly, this, or the equivalent in other flower varieties, has not been provided, and neither would it be practical to do so,” according to the scientists.
So what’s the solution? The scientists urge bee-loving Londoners to keep fewer hives and plant more flowers to feed the existing population.
A study by the Pesticide Research Institute and Friends of the Earth in the US found that plants sold by nurseries as bee-friendly were contaminated with the same agricultural pesticides linked to Colony Collapse Disorder. The still-unexplained affliction has wiped out 10 million hives in the US over the past six years. Those honey bees pollinate an estimated $30 billion worth of American crops that supply a third of the country’s food.
But Britain’s backyards are likely a safer place for bees given the Friends of the Earth’s successful campaign to persuade some of the country’s largest nurseries to stop selling plants pre-treated or grown with a class of agricultural chemicals called neonicotinoids.
This post originally appeared on Quartz.