What’s all the buzz about?
At last, my favourite time of the year is here; blossom, birds, bees, all abuzz with the joy of spring.
The saying “as a busy bee” is not for nothing. Bees pollinate most of our fruit and vegetables and make 6,000 tones of honey per year in the UK alone, contributing about £400 million to our economy. If we were to loose these industrious little creatures, it wouldn’t just be the honey that would go, according to Countryfile about 80% of our food would disappear, too.
But bees have been under threat for sometime now. We’ve lost twenty species of bee in the UK already and across Europe nearly one in ten species face extinction. Some professional bee farmers in the UK have reported losses of up to 60-70% of their bees.
Our cold, wet and windy weather doesn’t help, but pests and diseases also play a major role in the decline of bees. Another problem is the lack of variety in the types of crops we grow and the pesticides we use use to on the land. The EU has placed a temporary ban on some of the worst offending pesticides and Friends of the Earth are campaigning to make this ban permanent.
How to bee-friendly
Here’s a few simple things we can do to help our fuzzy-buzzy friends…
Grow bee-friendly plants. Honeysuckle, foxglove, flowering currant and monarda bee balm – all loved by bees and available in pink, too! (A full list of bee-friendly plants can be found here.)
Buy local raw honey. As well as supporting your local beekeeper, buying raw honey means it is 100% natural – nothing added.
Wash out your honey jars. Leaving unwashed jars in your recycling encourages bees to feed on the remaining honey. If that honey comes from abroad, it could contain bacteria that are harmful to our native bees.
Campaign for bees. Beekeepers are very worried that not enough information is available to combat the diseases that affect honeybees. Petition your MP to push for more funding in bee health research. You can also support one of the many local or national organisations, like the Friends of the Earth Bee-cause initiative.
Become a beekeeper. OK, maybe not so simple but help is at hand. Local beekeeping associations run courses for newbies, giving them practical advice on how to take-up this fascinating hobby. For more information visit the British Beekeepers’ Association.
Make space for a beehive. Even if you’re not ready to launch into bee-keeping yourself, maybe you have room in your garden for a beehive? There are plenty of would-be beekeepers out there looking for a safe place for their bees and in return your new lodgers will transform the garden, improving your fruit and vegetable crops and keep your garden humming with life. (You can find your local beekeeping association here.)
Give the gift of bees. Whether it’s a jar of honey from your local farm shop or a weekend-course on beekeeping, bee-themed things make perfect, eco-friendly presents for nature lovers.