It makes scary reading that bees are in such decline that they could be extinct from the UK by 2018! 3 species of bee have already become extinct in the UK.
Although many people find bees a nuisance they do perform a vital function by pollinating about one third of all the foods we eat. The economic value of crops grown commercially in the UK that benefit from bee pollination is estimated at approximately £165 million per year. Without the bees many plant species will die out as well.
So why are the bees dying?
Scientists think it is due to a number of reasons including:
- Disease from mite and virus infections. The varroa mite reached the UK in 1992 and now infests 95% of hives. Untreated bee colonies die in 3 to 4 years and even low populations of mites affects the bees' health. Other notifiable diseases include American Foul Brood and European Foul Brood have all been found in some areas of the UK.
- Changing weather patterns. Recent wet and cold summers have prevented bees from foraging for food and have affected the time of year that forage plants appear.
- Loss of Habitat. Flower-rich grasslands in England have declined by 97% over 60 years, with similar losses elsewhere. This has hit the UK's bumblebees particularly hard. A range of options are available to farmers to create useful habitat but if we can all work together to create a flower-rich countryside, this would help our UK honey bees, bumblebees and other pollinating insects survive.
- Insecticides. Insecticides used to kill agricultural pests may harm bees if these are applied incorrectly or without care.
Register your support here or you can join the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
Use more traditional native plants in your gardens. These include bluebells, rosemary, geraniums and honeysuckle, which bumblebees prefer to the more exotic imports and annual bedding plants which contain little or no nectar for the bees.
Spread the word! I knew bee populations were in decline but I hadn't realised how serious it was until I saw it mentioned on another website. Blog about it, twitter it, talk to people about it, make people aware of how serious a problem it is and what they can do to help.
I will be planting my wildflowers seeds in a few weeks and I am looking at what other plants I can have in my garden that will attract more bees. It may not be much but it is a start!