Bees, such as Apis Mellifera (The Western Honey Bee) and other pollinators such as hoverflies, bumble bees, solitary bees, butterflies, beetles, flies, moths and even dastardly wasps are an essential piece of the balance of our world. They help pollinate our crops, and enhance biodiversity, which in itself, helps our food production.
We need these little helpers. Without them we will be in serious trouble. Can you imagine a world where every single crop had to be hand pollinated ?
Honey bees and other pollinators unfortunately are under stress, alarming numbers of species are even endangered. Habitat loss, pesticides and even modern agricultural methods like mono-crops put a strain on these precious beasties.
Pesticides, are particularly implicated in causing the decline of our pollinators. There is one new (ish) group of pesticides in particular that is causing concern. These are Neonicotinoids, sometimes called Neonics. These are a type of pesticide that has a similar affect to nicotine, which is a natural insect deterent in some plants . Neonics affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis, then death. Whilst they can be beneficial in getting rid of some crop destroying pests, they also have a nasty side effects on other, beneficial insects such as bees, most moths and butterflies, contributing to a cocktail of symptoms which end up in colony collapse and in some cases complete decimation of species within an eco-system. The European Union banned use of 3 of the most commonly used neonics in December 2013 due to increasing and well documented concern about their adverse affects on bee & pollinator populations. Despite this last year the UK allowed for them to be used in some areas. Nightmare. (Thanks for that Liz Truss!). Right now it’s unclear whether they will be allowed to use them again this year,
So, given the facts: Declining habitat with fewer sources of food for our pollinator friends, and the food there is often contaminated, What can we do to help?
1. Plant more bee & pollinator friendly plants in your garden… Or window sill, or on a patch of ground that looks a bit abandoned. Especially varieties that blossom in Early Spring & late Autumn, which gives local insects an added food source at times of year when pollen might be scarce. There are loads of flowers that are not only beautiful, but insects love. Sage (both ornamental & edible) rosemary, honeysuckles, crocus, all kinds of fruits, lavender, cornflowers, poppies & echinacia… the list is huge, and there will be something right for almost any corner of your garden, no matter how small it is.
2. Don’t use pesticides in your garden. Pesticides might seem like a quick fix to get rid of pesky bugs, but they have a detrimental effect not only on the insect you’re wanting to get rid of, but on pollinators. Although we’re not 100% sure of the reason for colony collapse or the decrease in local bumbles and butterflies, being exposed to a cocktail of different types of pesticides that bees and other pollinators consume from various sources just can’t be good for them. Added to this, we have no way of knowing the different combinations that they might ingest and what harm that might be doing them.
3. Buy organic fruit & veggies where you can. I know it’s not always possible, but if you can afford organic veggies, or veggies from schemes like the LEAF scheme which helps farmers produce food to a high environmental standard, reducing chemical use & leaving hedgerows or other green spaces near crops which provides homes for all kinds of animals, bees included, this all helps. Try growing your own veggies too if you can, especially things like lettuce and salad leaves, which are super easy to grow, even in pots.
4. Support your local bee keeper. Seek out your local bee keepers and find out where they sell their honey , it might be a local market, it might be a little local shop. Small scale local keepers are generally a lovely lot of people (Gross generalisation here, but in my experience it’s true!) who really care about their Bee charges, ensuring they are disease free, nursing them through horrible winters that seemingly never end and campaigning to get pollinator harming pesticides removed from the approved list of chemicals used in agriculture. Small scale bee-keepers tend to be incredibly passionate & well-informed about key environmental issues, after all, they’re caring for colonies of insects that are susceptible to chemicals, lack of forage (flowers!) and disease brought on by stress or new types of parasites.
5. Get Involved: Pester your local council to stop mowing verges and keep wild-flowers growing instead. Did you know that dandelions are a key source of pollen & nectar in early Spring? Not only write to your local MP about pesticide use within your area and country. – Oh- And please go sign this campaign to prevent neonics being used in the UK again this year! Sign now by following this link: https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk/campaigns/766
The Gardener & I care so much about our bees. We observe them, look after them and occasionally even get stung for our efforts (only if we are really clumsy). We want them to thrive and be healthy, and you can help too. x