Bees. We can’t live without them, but we all know they are under threat.
To raise awareness of the importance of bees, and other pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN has designated 20th May as World Bee Day.
What were we saying last week about using designated days when writing the blog! They are also a great way of helping us plan our window displays that we like to change each week.
But back to the subject. Obviously, solving global food supply problems and eliminating hunger in developing countries are two very big jobs, but the UN claims that looking after the bees will go some way towards finding solutions for both, and we are inclined to agree.
It’s another of those issues that affect absolutely everyone, so we should all be playing our part in tackling the decline in bee numbers because, yet again, it is the poorest nations that will suffer most if we don’t.
The whole world needs bees and other pollinators in order to grow the food we need, but their numbers are rapidly declining everywhere due to habitat loss, the use of pesticides and pollution. Pollution? That’s interesting, isnt’ it? We hadn’t realised that pollutants break down scent molecules emitted by plants. It reduces the strength and longevity of floral scents, making it harder for bees to detect food. This means the poor wee souls often end up flying further to find food to bring back to their nests.
Another reason for ditching the car whenever possible.
There is so much more to bees than we might imagine. Did you know there are over 270 species of bee in the UK alone? We all know about the bumblebee and the honey bee, but over 268 more? That’s incredible. But, listen to this. There are more than 20,000 species throughout the world. HOWEVER, since 1900 the UK had lost 13 species of bee and a further 35 are consider under threat of extinction.
What to do?
Now, you may feel ready to become a beekeeper, in which case head straight to the website and get signed up for the UN’s Bee Engaged event.
Maybe you are a farmer? In which case you need to be thinking of reducing your use of pesticides, diversifying your crops and creating hedgerows. That’s hardly new, is it? But how many farmers are actually doing it?
Or are you a politician? Then you need to strengthen the participation of local communities in decision-making. You may need to look at enforcing strategic measures, including offering incentives, and increasing collaboration between national and international organisations and between academic and research networks to monitor and evaluate pollination services. We need to understand the scale of the problem if we are to fix it.
If this blog has gone global, and is being read in places where indigenous people, who know and respect ecosystems and biodiversity, are being marginalised, for goodness sake get them involved in the decision-making too.
Or are you, like us, a concerned individual? You can still play an important role
· Support your local honey producers
· Buy products from sustainable agricultural practices
· Share all this information
How about making your garden more bee-friendly. It’s not difficult. They basically need food, shelter and water. According to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust a well thought-out garden can provide nest sites and food for bees during their active period from March until October.
Try to have plants in flower at different times of the year and try to include some of these bee favourites.
Spring: bluebells, crocuses, viburnum, pussy willows, dandelions
Early Summer: campanula, comfrey, alliums, borage, catmint, hollyhocks, poppies, sweat peas, thyme
Late Summer: buddleia, cornflowers, echinacea, foxgloves, honeysuckle, lavender, nasturtiums, ivy, sedum
Oh my, can you just imagine what a beautiful garden you would have if you had only half those plants! If you are not sure you can remember all of them, make it easy on yourself and look for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ tag when you are buying new plants.
Once you have organised food for the bees, go on to think of offering them shelter.
· A south-facing wild corner provides great nesting sites for warmth-loving solitary bees.
· Sheltered, shady corners are attractive to bumblebees. They would really appreciate some upturned or broken plant pots to buzz into
Globally almost 35% of invertebrate pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, and about 17% of vertebrate pollinators, such as bats, face extinction. If this trend continues, nutritious crops such as fruits, nuts and many vegetables face being substituted by staple crops like rice, corn and potatoes, which will lead eventually to an imbalanced diet for all and all the health issues that will ensue.
The decline of bees will affect us all, but as is so often the case, it will be the poorest who will be hardest hit. The time for action is now.