Britain’s bees are in trouble. 35 UK bees species are under threat of extinction, and all species face serious threats. Right now, they need us almost as much as we need them. The decline in bees' diversity and abundance would have a serious impact on how our natural world functions. This includes our food crops. Bees pollinate much of the food that makes our diets healthy and tasty – from the apple in our lunchbox, to the tomatoes on our pizza. What's causing bee decline? The biggest single cause of bee decline is the intensification of farming. This is compounded by the increased use of pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, which is having a devastating impact on wild bees. Friends of the Earth launched the Bee Cause in 2012 to reverse bee decline in the UK, and according to Sandra Bell, one of their bee campaigners, there are steps we can take to get involved. Fill your garden with summer blooming plants including:
Lavender - Famous for its perfumed scent and purple flowers which are a big hit with bumblebees along with leafcutter bees, flower bees and mason bees. Plant in sun and trim for new growth. Thrives even in poor, dry soils.
Phacelia - Heralded as ‘the single most attractive plant for bees on the planet’ by bumblebee researcher Professor Dave Goulson!. This sweet-scented flower is simple to grow from seed and can also be used as a 'green manure', a living plant which adds fertility to the soil.
Here are some more examples from other seasons.
There are many other simple projects you can partake in to help bees. These include:
Make a bee hotel: With just a plastic bottle and some basic craft supplies, you’ll be able to give bees somewhere to live, sleep and eat. Just pack bamboo canes into an old bottle or can, and hang in a sunny place. Read full tutorial here.
Grow pollen and nectar-rich plants:Different bee species prefer different flower shapes, so aim for a range from tubular-shaped flowers to open-headed flowers. As well as flowers, try shrubs, herbs, trees, fruit and veg. Spring and autumn flowering bulbs are also great.
Growing sunflowers encourages children to look after their own plant. The sunflowers could all be planted along the edge of a playground or they could take them home to encourage bees in their own garden.
No garden? Plant up a pot or window box. Try lavender, heathers, nasturtiums, sunflowers and bulbs like crocuses, as well as herbs. Children can also get involved with school garden projects, or perhaps make a bee hotel as a gift to give to friends and family!
Fundraising for bees: Children could raise money to buy bee-friendly plants for their home school. If children raise the money themselves, they will feel more ownership of the garden.
Give bees a drink in hot weather: Like humans, bees need water. Water is essential for honey bees to make food for their young, and keep their hive cool and humid. They collect water during the summer months. Fill a bucket or tray with water – preferably rain water – and put a few stones in it that are large and stable enough to give bees a safe place to drink from. Floating old wine corks on the surface also gives bees something to land on. Got a pond? Try adding floating-leaved plants, wine corks or rocks to give bees a landing pad.
Bee Walk: discover bee-friendly habitats: Have you ever thought about whether the green spaces near you are welcoming for bees and other pollinating insects? If you enjoy a good walk, why not go for a ramble and discover your local environment from a bee's perspective. It's a great way to look out for different bees and join the Great British Bee Count.
Bugs on tour: Big Bugs on Tour is a national shopping centre exhibition at 13 intu centres nationwide that brings adults and children face-to-face with 12 giant British bugs, including bees, in an effort to reconnect people with nature. According to research for the tour, one in five children (21 per cent) were unable to correctly identify a bee.