I’ve been working with Daisy and the Trust , gaining information on bumble bees on behalf of my work with clients around the area.
It is interesting that initially I was focussed on honeybees, but now I understand the connectivity of various species and the importance of helping them all.
Here’s some useful facts for you:
- There are 270 species of bees in the UK
- Only 1 species of honey bee
- 25 species of Bumble bee
- over 240 species of Solitary bees
- Globally there are 250 species of Bumble bees
- Over a third of social bumblebees declined by more than 70% between 1980-1990
- The once common Great yellow bumblebee is not ONLY found in North Scotland
- NINETY-EIGHT% -yes 98% – of flower rich grassland lost across UK since 1940s
The last point, 98% of flower rich grassland lost since 1940, is an astonishingly terrifying statistic. We have seen how many bee species that has affected, but what about the knock on effect on all the other insects, birds and mammals that depended on that environment. Sadly we can’t say that we lost it due to ‘improvements’ either.
To gain a perspective on this, imagine if 98% of our habitat was lost, not just where we live, but the food we eat. How would the UK look then if 98% of farmland for food production was gone, then 98% of our housing… Doesn’t really bear thinking about. It’s a wonder more people aren’t stung more frequently!! If I were a bee I’d certainly be angry.
One of the most common things people say to me when related to ‘saving bees’ is ‘I want to get a beehive’. My response isn’t what people expect. We don’t need more beehives as an extra 50,000 mouths to feed in your garden will not help bees overall.
All bees need more food so the most important thing any of us can do top help bees is plant more food for them. This isn’t ‘Britain in bloom’ style plants either. Double, or triple headed blossoms hide their nectaries and pollen, some have them bread out completely so offer no respite for a hungry bee. Simple native flowers and trees are what bees need, and an awful lot of them.
I’m not even going to start on pesticides and chemicals, pollution or mowing. Lets just start with more native flowers. One step at a time.
So how can I justify keeping bees?
Here’s my methods and reasons:
- Allowing natural breeding and habitat with minimum intervention
- Only using local stocks of bees, no importing bees from anywhere
- Encouraging propolis production within the hive to boost bees’ immunity
- Raising awareness about how to responsibly care for bees is a sustainable manner
- Always leaving enough honey to feed the bees
- Only taking small amounts of honey to be used and sold as a medicinal food
- Developing production of single variety, small quantities of native plant honey
- Using hives that encourage and protect natural health of bees
There are some great bee watching and counting initiatives to get involved with too:
Finally here’s some great Bumble bee facts:
- Male bumblebees don’t sting
- You can spot a male bee as it has facial hair and often a yellow face!
- Bees have four wings
- Bees have smaller eyes than flies
- Male bumblebees don’t collect pollen
- A queen bumblebee emerges in Spring after a long hibernation, fertilised from mating the previous summer
- Bumblebees prefer to live in holes in lawns, banks and compost bins
- A bumblebee colony will die out by August/ September
- A Bumble bee queen will hibernate after mating in August
- Queen bumblebees can be up to 10 times larger than a worker bee
- Bumblebees grow larger depending on diet
- Bumblebees don’t die when they sting
Don’t mow your lawn until after the flowers have fed the bees and leave some wildness and brambles for the bees to feed on!