Bee kind: Why bees need saving and what you can do to help
- Written by Alicia Drewnicki
- April 30, 2018
- 3 min read
Bees are magical little creatures that play a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy environment and a healthy economy. They pollinate two-thirds of all the world’s crops and flowers, which helps give us food to eat and flowers to enjoy. Our landscapes rely on bees to fertilise the crops around us, and it would cost UK farmers approx £1.8 billion to pollinate crops without bees.
But did you know that bees urgently need our help? There is growing concern over the rapid bee decline across the world. There are currently 250 species of bees in the UK, but since 1900, 20 species have become extinct and 35 more species are currently under threat of extinction. There are lots of things you can do to help save the bees, and this post tells you everything you need to know about these precious little insects that are often taken for granted.
The Role of Bees
Bees work hard to collect nectar from flowers and every time they land on a flower – something amazing happens. Pollen sticks to their legs and some of it falls off on to plants. It’s during this process that pollination occurs and the bees facilitate plants being able to reproduce.
What They Pollinate
It might surprise you how many things you consume on a daily basis that you have bees to thank for – from avocados to strawberries, to tomatoes, courgettes, apples, pears, squashes, vanilla, and so much more. Most of the fruit and vegetables we eat have been grown with the help of bees. Also, if you’re wearing cotton, the cotton plant your thread came from was pollinated too. Bees help pollinate approximately 80% of wildflowers in Europe, so without bees, our countryside would be a lot less beautiful.
What’s Causing Their Extinction
Firstly, their habitats are being destroyed rapidly; there are fewer wildflower-rich spaces, meadows and hedgerows. In fact, since the 1930s, we have lost an estimated 97% of all of our wildflower meadows, which provide habitat and food for bees.
Another big reason is pesticides. Neonicotinoids (also known as neonics) are systemic pesticides which can be fatal to bees. Instead of remaining on the surface, neonics are absorbed by every part of the plant, so feeding animals and insects ingest them (as do we). They’ve also been found to be harmful to butterflies, birds and aquatic wildlife. Neonics also end up in the soil, the air, and on other nearby plants.
When bees consume neonics, it impairs their memory, ability to navigate back to the nest/hive/colony, increases their susceptibility to disease and also impairs their ability to communicate with nest mates (a critical problem for social insects like bees).Studies also suggest climate change is squeezing more species north and disrupting local eco-systems.
What Can You Do To Help
1) Plant pollinator-friendly flowers (such as English lavender, jasmine and honeysuckle). The RHS has a comprehensive list here.
2) Buy or make your own bee hotel – there are over 200 species of solitary bee in the UK that require individual nests. Some live in crumbling mortar, others tunnel in the ground. By having a bee hotel – you can give the bees a shelter.
3) Don’t use pesticides in your garden – learn about organic gardening.
4) Help revive tired bees – did you know that tired bees can be helped with a ‘bee energy drink’ of sugar and water. You can read some great advice from Moral Fibres.
5) Friends of the Earth have lots of bee-saving ideas as part of their ‘The Bee Cause’ campaign. You can join in many – from the #GreatBritishBeeCount to donating for a bee saver kit.
6) Don’t be scared of bees – learn that bees aren’t out to get you. A lot of people fear bees, but a thing to remember is that they’re vegetarian and they’re looking for pollen and nectar, they’re not carnivores or out to sting us.
7) Encourage your council to do more for pollinators – e.g. stop using pesticides and leave wildflowers growing in public areas.
8) Let some of your garden go wild – longer grass will give the bees a place to rest and wildflowers are a bee’s favourite.
9) Encourage local schools and neighbours to help too –the more people saving bees, the better.
We often take for granted all the gifts that nature gives us. Here at Honestly Good HQ, we’re passionate about learning how to look after our natural environment and its inhabitants – including those all-important little bees.