“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” ― Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life of the Bee
In the past few years I have become really concerned about the environment. Being at University I’ve met other like minded individuals and when I moved out on my own I wanted to try and help. At the moment I have limited ways to help as I don’t have the ability to create a proper garden in my student house, but I have already seen small changes caused by our little garden!
But there is so much more we can all do!
Bees are so vital to life and without them Earth will be in serious peril. With that, we must do all we can to help them. They are essential to all eco-systems and a third of all our food relies on their pollination skills.
Did you know that the honeybee isn’t the only species of bee?
The honeybee is the most well known as they supply us with honey, wax and royal jelly but there are more than 2,500 species of bees in Europe and more than 20,000 worldwide!
Even though these bees can’t produce honey for us they are vital to our ecosystems and pollination of wild plants and agricultural crops!
In the UK, bee pollination alone brings in around £165million a year. Bees are used to increase the yield of about 90 crops such as apples and blueberries by up to 30%. In 2008, they were declared to be the most invaluable species on the planet at the Annual Earthwatch debate.
So if bees are so valuable to us, why are we ruining their environment?
UK bees have lost 97% of their natural grassland and without them, our food sources are under threat too. Without them, it would cost an extra £1.8 billion a year to pollinate these by hand which will in turn push up food prices.
Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause campaign persuaded the
government to adopt a Bee Action Plan (the National Pollinator
Strategy) to reverse the decline of bees.
In the past few years, Bees have had a lot of media coverage but we must keep doing more in order to combat this issue. Despite this they are still in decline due to our use of pesticides and viruses that seem to be attacking them.
In order to protect them, we must act in a three pronged approach.
On a personal level, we could each donate to the cause or amend our gardens to help them. As well as convincing others to join in.
By convincing other people, namely large groups like companies, schools or universities, more people can be educated and get involved!
And finally, we all need to convince government, both local councils and all the way up to the people passing bills that will benefit the environment.
Over the past ten years my family have converted our garden from a rectangle of grass to a garden filled with a variety of plants, shrubs and trees. We now have two bee houses, bird houses and feeders and a running stream to our pond. It has brought so much vibrancy, colour and life to our garden.
We now have plants of all sorts of colour, size and this past summer we had so many bees visit the garden. This definitely inspired me to try to get more involved, and when I came back to uni, my house set up a garden of different plants in pots out in the garden.
Don’t let yourself get disheartened by the fact you may live in a flat, have no grass or soil in your garden (my student flat is all concrete!) You can still make a difference!
Small things like having plants in your windows and helping the bees get back outside if they get trapped in your home can help! Plant your own fruit and veg in stand-up green houses, shove some herbs in window boxes and make sure to convince others to do the same!
Green open spaces are just as important as our own back gardens! Making sure that these spaces stay protected is so important to the survival of the bee population as well as the eco-systems that live there already! Involve your local council and if you see a petition that will protect your local environment in some way sign it! A few seconds to write a signature can make all the difference!
So what Can we do to help the Bees ?
10 things you can do to help the bees:
- Plant bee friendly plants in your garden and everywhere you can! But remember to avoid using chemicals as it can leach into the pollen. Wherever possible plant pollen and nectar rich plants such as: Berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries), Flowers such as sunflowers, asters and echinacea, Herbs like sage and mint, Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers and spices like fennel and coriander. Make sure to also plant native species to your area too.
- Don’t be so hard on weeds! They can help the bees too! Allow long grass to grow in a section of your garden as certain species thrive off of these types of plants. Dandelions are also a favourite of many bees!
- Offer bees a source of water in your garden. Especially in the summer bees get thirsty!
- Use the people around you to help! Convince your school, university, business to create a Bee World! Sign petitions and get your local council involved!
- Join your local Friends of the Earth group and get stuck into projects in your local area.
- Buy Local. Strive to buy local honey as you will support a local business and the health of local bees.
- Buy organic. Organic food and fibers like cotton and hemp are produced without the use of commercial pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides, making them inherently more bee-friendly than conventionally grown products.
- use social media to promote as many bee and nature related causes as possible! All these causes link together and help each other, so the more exposure the better! Get your family and friends involved too
- Keep your own Hive! Want a little taste of doing that little bit more? Get your own hive! The BBKA (The British Beekeepers Association) run courses and advice on how to get into bee-keeping.
- Adopt! If you can’t have your own bees why not adopt a hive? You can adopt one in your local area so you can still help out locally.
All these things can be done year round, but right now in the colder weather you can do a little bit more to help. This time of year bees tend to stay in their hive and eat their honey to survive through the colder temperatures. But it is obviously harder to collect enough quantities to make enough honey for a hive to survive the winter, so you can put out some water with sugar in it for the bees!
If you find one outside though leave it out there, and provide some sort of shelter outside for them.