Bee conservation is all the buzz at the moment, pardon the pun. With the Great British Bee Count recently coming to a close, and us being in the midst of Bees’ Needs Week 2018, we thought there would be no better time than now to do a blog post on all you need to know about bee conservation. So here it is!
Importance of Bee Conservation
Bees are kind of important. ‘Kind of’ being a massive understatement. Bees are critical pollinators. They pollinate around 70 out of 100 crop species that essentially feed 90% of the world’s population. If that’s got you confused, to put it simply, if bees die out, so do we.
There has been an overall decline in wild and honey bees over the past 50 years, the main causes being industrial agriculture, parasites and climate change. One of the main culprits is the use of insecticides containing neonicotinoids which are toxic to many other species of insects in addition to bees. Luckily, this year, use has now been banned across Europe. However it is not known the detrimental effect the use of the insecticides has truly had on the bee population in recent years and whether it will continue.
Types of Bees
There are 24 species of bumblebee found in the UK, 6 of which you will find buzzing around your garden. Only the queen of bumblebee colonies survive the winter, so they have no need to store large amounts of honey. They nest in old burrows and cavities.
Honey bees live in hives. Colonies are divided up into the queen who runs the hive, workers (female bees) and drones (male bees). Honey bees have been domesticated by beekeepers to produce the honey we all know and love.
Mason bees are solitary bees. They tend to nest in hollow wood, and British species in particular may even nest in empty snail shells. They use mud to to build their nest compartments. Mason bees are one of the most fascinating to observe.
Mining bees are another species that live solitarily. They like to build nests in sandy soil, so if you come across any small mounds of earth on your lawn, this may be a mining bee nest. The nests cause no damage to the soil so there is no need to disturb them.
Bee Conservation: How You Can Help
Plant Bee-Friendly Plants
There are a number of species of plants that will specifically attract bees to your garden. Bees prefer flowers rich in nectar and pollen. Plant a variety of shrubs, flowers, herbs, fruit & vegetables:
- Lavender – bees are attracted to its purple flowers and perfumed scent.
- Abelia – nicknamed the ‘bee bush’, bees are attracted to its scented delicate white flowers.
- Crocus – bees often use the large flowers of the crocus to shelter themselves overnight to protect themselves and the pollen they have collected.
- Chives – easy to grow, many species of bees seek the nectar from punchyed purple florets of chives.
- Kale – this fashionable cabbage is popular amongst bees as well. Leaving some plants to put out yellow flowers will attract a variety of bees to your veg patch.
- Wildflowers – wildflowers provide accessible nectar and pollen for bees throughout the spring and summer months. Check out our post on rewilding your garden to learn some tips on encouraging native wildflowers to bloom in your garden.
Buy Local Organic Honey
Opt for honey from local beekeepers that do not use honey from hives treated by chemicals. Pop down to your local farmers market and you are sure to meet some local beekeepers – shake their hand and find out how they keep their bees. This is the best way to ensure you are consuming honey from a sustainable, natural source.
Go Organic in Your Garden
Rid yourself of insecticides and pesticides. They may help you lawn look neat and tidy, but they are doing quite the opposite for the biodiversity and insect population in your garden. Chemicals can wreak havoc on bee systems, so opt for natural pesticides that won’t harm the wildlife in your garden. You can find out more about organic gardening in this blog post.
Bees need water too! Investing in a bird bath will not only help the feathered friends that visit your garden, but bees too.
Bees are vital for human life so their survival and protection through bee conservation should be of utmost importance to us. Taking simple steps to ensure your garden is bee-friendly can make the world of difference.
Megan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.