At our Harvest Service last month, Nick spoke about bees and their importance in providing the food that we eat. Bees are essential for pollinating crops and other plants and it’s estimated that they play a key role in providing at least a third of the food that we eat, if not more. What is worrying though is the decline in the numbers of bees since the start of this century – since 2010 alone, the bee population has reduced by 45% in the UK, and this is thought to be mostly due to the use of pesticides. Two species of bee have become extinct in the UK since the start of the 21st century and several more are now endangered.
Here are some facts about bees and why they are so important to us:
- Bees pollinate 80% of flowering plants on Earth and 70 of the top 100 human food crops.
- One single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day.
- 1 in 3 bites of food we eat is derived from plants pollinated by bees.
- Almonds are completely dependent on bee pollination; avocados, apples, and cherries are over 90% dependent on bee pollination and cucumbers, kiwis, and melon are majorly dependent on bee pollination.
A threat to the bees is a threat to our own existence. It can be tempting, when faced with a huge problem like this, to bury our own heads in the sand. After all, what difference can just one person make? And whilst, on our own, it may seem we make very little difference, if we all stopped to play our part in helping the bees we could make a massive difference.
Here are some ways in which we can help the bees (taken from the information sheet which was made available after the Harvest service):
Action you can take about habitat loss:
- Ask your council not to mow wildflower verges, and request that your friends and relatives do the same. Councils manage large areas of land and can make a positive contribution. For example, they can manage hedgerows sympathetically, and create pollinator gardens. Public pressure makes a difference.
- Think of your garden as a feeding station and safe-haven for bees.
- Make your garden bee-friendly, and include wildflowers in your garden.
- Plant hedgerows – some local wildlife and council groups will even give away native hedgerow species to encourage this. Plant hawthorne, prunus, ribes, honeysuckle, berberis and holly.
- Provide hollow canes for solitary bees and upturned plant pots beneath sheds for bumblebees to consider making a nest in. Don’t use pesticides, including on your lawn – bees may forage or nest in lawns.
Action you can take about pesticides:
- Please don’t use pesticides in your garden. Support organic wherever you can, or better still, grow your own organic food if possible, even on a small scale.
- We need to change our attitudes towards insect species and realise that most are beneficial or harmless. It seems we put much at risk for the sake of a few “pests” – the role and habits of which we may not fully understand, and in many cases, environmentally friendly alternatives are available.
- Please help raise awareness that most insect species are beneficial or harmless.
- Ask your local council and golf course not to use pesticides.
- Get involved! Campaign for changes to the system and bans of harmful pesticides by signing petitions, sharing with friends, writing to politicians and so on.
Action you can take about climate change:
- A difficult one, other than being considerate in using the Earth’s resources as best you can.
- However, with regard to gardening, there are some things you can do to provide for bees in difficult conditions (within reason!) For example, if you live in a drought area, take this into account in your choice of plants and provide shallow water and damp mud for bees.
For more ideas and information go to http://www.buzzaboutbees.net
This article was first published in the April 2016 issue of Look-In, our monthly church magazine. To download the full issue, please click here: Look-In Oct-2016