HOW TO SAVE BEES NOW
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM? Bees are vital to a healthy environment and economy. Around 75% of the food we eat needs to be pollinated, and bees – wild bees, not just honey bees – are major players in that job. Bees also help keepgreen spaces flourishing. That includes gardens, parks and streets, as well as uncultivated areas like woodland, heath and grasslands. But you'd have to have been living under a rock for the last decade not to know that bees are now under threat.
The reasons are still not clear. Suggestions include loss of habitat and food sources, exposure to harmful pesticides, climate change and chaotic weather, as well as pests and diseases. More likely, it's a mix of all these, reflecting global issues that will affect all creatures. Including us.
Here are some ways to help bees, as well as the wider environment, now.
1. CAMPAIGN: Speak up to influence agencies who can change things and reward those who are trying. The EU recently approved a complete ban on bee-killing pesticides that have been linked to bee decline (search 'neonicotinoids'). However, conservative politicians are trying to stop a complete EU ban on bee-harming pesticides. The issues are sticky.
Now: Voice your concerns to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove. Email him here: firstname.lastname@example.org . C.ontact DEFRA here
2. GO ORGANIC: Buy organic food, organic toiletries, organic cotton. Basically, if it’s organic, buy it. Given that insecticides are cited as one of the main causes of bee decline, the more organic produce, the better. Organic farmers work with nature to grow crops, without the use of harmful pesticides.
Now: The Soil Association is the UK's leading food and farming charity and organic certification body, www.soilassociation.org
3. MAKE YOUR GARDEN BEE-FRIENDLY: Swap to certified organic seeds, weed-killers and insect repellants. Fill beds with bee-friendly plants.
Now: Garden Organic, the working name of the Henry Doubleday Research Association, aims to help everyone grow organically, www.gardenorganic.org.uk The British Beekeepers Association provides a full listing of bee-friendly plants by season. Visit www.bbka.org.uk. Also, look for the RHS “Perfect for Pollinators” symbol at garden centres.
4. BUY LOCAL HONEY: Buy local organic honey as opposed to mass-produced supermarket brands. Perhaps unsurprisingly, local beekeepers are more likely to care about the wellbeing of their bees than global multi-national.
Now: The British Beekeepers Association holds a comprehensive list of member associations detailed by UK County, www.bbka.org.uk
5. BECOME A BEEKEEPER: It's not quite as Thomas Hardy as it sounds. More importantly, bad beekeeping can actually lead to the further demise of bees in your area. Track down a local established beekeeper to act as a mentor.
Now: The British Beekeepers’ Association runs beginners’ training programs, www.bbka.org.uk
6. ADOPT A HIVE: Working with bees not for you? Adopt a hive instead. For an annual fee you will be supporting the work of beekeepers, as well as the chance of getting free honey.
Now: The British Beekeepers’ Association runs an AdoptaBeehive initiative to support research and experienced beekeeping, www.bbka.org.uk
7. PUT UP A BEE HOUSE AND WATER FOUNTAIN. Bee houses offer refuge for bees and hibernation spots for the winter months. Provide nest sites in your garden for solitary bees and bumble bees. If you have space, leave a patch of lawn to grow wild.
Bees get tired. It’s not uncommon to see a lone bee lying on the ground, seemingly dead, as it tries to muster up the energy to find food and fresh water. Put out a dish of sugar water syrup (no artificial sweeteners or honey, which contain traces of viruses that may be passed on) for exhausted bees.
Now: Buy a Solitary Bee House from The Eden Project, www.edenproject.com
8. LEARN. The more you know about bees, the more you’ll care. Learn about the difference between bumblebees and honey bees, for example. Keep abreast of current initiatives to save the bees; scientists are proposing using microphones and an app to track them.
9. BECOME A CITZEN SCIENTIST. To help reverse the decline of bees, we need to make better-informed decisions to ensure that bees and other pollinators - and their habitats - are protected. This requires vital information about bees – their numbers, locations, changes in their populations, and how they're responding to their changing environment. Take part in Friends of the Earth’s Great British Bee Count; next one, 2018..
Now: Download the Great British Bee Count app . Visit foe.org.uk for more info.
10. BEES AROUND THE WORLD. Bees for Development promotes sustainable beekeeping to combat poverty and to build sustainable, resilient livelihoods. It supports beekeepers to maintain environments that are good for bees, for biodiversity, and for people, www.beesfordevelopment.org
Now: Donate here.