From the changing climate, to pesticides and land development, the honey bee population faces serious threats. Golf Clubs such as Royal Wimbledon play an integral part in conserving a species which is vital to maintaining our planet.

Sergio Pignanoli, the beekeeper at Royal Wimbledon initially began beekeeping twelve years ago as a hobby, inspired by memories of his father’s beehive in Italy. He is now a full time bee farmer, currently running two hundred colonies of honey bees, and is one of around 465 members of the British Bee Farmers Association. With a plethora of hives located in Guildford, the Surrey Hills, Berkshire, Hampshire and Kent, his eight hives at Royal Wimbledon are just one example of local efforts to fight the struggling honey bee population.

When asked about the importance of conserving the honey bees, Sergio’s response was clear and informed: “one third of what we eat comes thanks to the pollination of the honey bees.” The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has stated that “70 of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of food worldwide are pollinated by bees”. The overarching message is blatant: honey bees are crucial not only for maintaining an ecological balance and biodiversity in nature, but also for their profitable impact, contributing an estimated £400 million to the economy every year. 

Sergio has been working with golf clubs for a number of years, helping them to “get a better image” and allowing “the community to see that the golf clubs with so much land try to do something for the environment”. In the past, golf courses have gained an element of notoriety and a somewhat negative reputation for their interference with natural land, consistently cutting the grass, spraying the greens and using pesticides, Sergio noted that “they had to change and they want to change.” Thanks to an increasing awareness of the fundamental role that honey bees play, many golf clubs now use less chemicals in an effort to be more environmentally friendly. Rather notably, Sergio remarked that numerous clubs, including Royal Wimbledon have been “very keen to bring back local heather”. Heather was a plant naturally found in many of these clubs but was gradually taken away. Its replanting is extremely beneficial for bees, who in turn help to regenerate this through their pollination. 

The National pollinator strategy paper, published in 2014 stated that “in 2013, over 29,000 beekeepers managing around 126,000 colonies were registered in England … compared with 15,000 beekeepers managing just under 80,000 colonies in 2008.” In response to a question regarding this increase in beekeeping, Sergio commented that  “more and more people understand the importance of local honey.” As a result, in Wimbledon, along with the rest of the country, there is an increased awareness of the necessity of bees throughout nature, and in an effort to support this, Sergio runs bee clubs to show people who are thinking about becoming beekeepers what it involves in terms of both the time and financial commitment. In addition to Sergio’s advice and information, his beekeeping at Royal Wimbledon serves as the most striking representation of Wimbledon’s proactive role in protecting the species.  

Sergio’s work at Royal Wimbledon golf club has been invaluable in advocating for the preservation of honey bees as well as promoting local efforts to protect the bee population. Royal Wimbledon Golf Club’s honey embodies a local endeavour to protect an insect whose purpose and survival is critical.