May and June are full of buzzing bees in my garden. But media coverage and the 'Bee Cause' campaign by Friends of the Earth tell us that they aren’t doing well everywhere. Changes in our landscape, our climate and the way we control pests are all affecting the number and range of bees that thrive here. Now's the time to help find out more and do more to help bees thrive.
Why are bees important?
When bees (and other flying insects) visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen to feed their babies, the bee takes pollen from one plant to another and pollinates them. While some flowering plants are pollinated by the wind, most rely on insects. Without pollination by bees or other flying insects, plants fail to produce seed and, in some cases, fruit. And that affects food production.
Did you know?
- About 270 species of bee have been recorded in the UK.
- Bumblebees aren’t simply 'bumblebees', there are varieties with different coloured tails and stripes and different homes.
- Then there are solitary bees, carder bees, leafcutter bees and mining bees.
- And honey bees are the ones that produce honey that so many of us enjoy.
Record the bees you see!
The Great British Bee Count has been launched by Friends of the Earth to increase awareness of bees and their importance in our lives and recruit us all to collect information that can increase understanding of these precious insects. A new app helps identify, record and report the species you might see in your garden and in the parks and fields near your home, on days out and holidays.
Using the Great British Bee Count App means you can submit bee sightings up to 30th June, and after that you can use it as an identification guide throughout the summer.
As you register each sighting, the information about the bee you record – where it is, what plants it is on and the weather at the time – is recorded on the Friends of the Earth database. Records are checked before adding them to the National Biodiversity Network Atlas which is used by scientists and conservationists across the country.
The app is a great way to encourage children (and adults!) to be out and about looking around them, and to contribute to a national initiative.
Support bees in your garden
If you don’t have a smartphone that can use an app you can still do lots to help bees. Read our blog on World Environment Day and take action!
- Extend the flowering season in your garden or patio by choosing a range of plants that produce nectar and pollen rich flowers over a long season.
- The RHS advice note on plants perfect for pollinators is a good shopping list for your next trip to a garden centre.
- Encourage bees to set up home in your garden with a bee box containing cardboard tubes or hollow canes or plant stems or holes drilled into wood. Buy these from garden centres or make your own by filling a wooden box with tubes in different sizes, from 2 – 8mm (116– 516 inches). Position it on a shed or garage wall where you can see the bees but won't be in their way.
- If you see flying insects other than honey bees nesting in your garden, you can leave them where they are. Many species of bees won't stay long in your garden and their colonies are not very big. Honey bees are the exception - and in May and June we may see swarms settling in trees or hedges or on buildings. Use the British Beekeepers Association website to find out if these are honey bees and if a local swarm collector can remove them to a safer place.
- Don’t use pesticides on plants in flower as this may damage bees’ health.
- Follow some of the ideas on the Bee World webpages.
Be(e) happy in your garden!
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