World Bee Day is upon us and aims to highlight the importance of bees in food production, sustainable farming, biodiversity and environmental protection. The date was chosen as 20 May coincides with the birthday of Anton Janša, who in the 18th century pioneered modern beekeeping techniques in his native Slovenia and praised the bees for their ability to work so hard, while needing so little attention.
Bees are renowned for their role in providing high-quality food (honey, royal jelly and pollen) and other products used in healthcare such as beeswax. A third of the world’s food production depends on bees. Over the past 50 years the amount of crops that depend on pollinators has tripled. The act of pollination by bees is vital for the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity in nature. Bees are also an indicator of the state of an environment. The observation of presence, absence or quantity of bees helps to ascertain changes in the environment and can be an early warning to implement precautionary measures.
Bees have become increasingly endangered lately and nearly 10% or European bee species are facing extinction. The number of pollinators worldwide is declining while the need for pollination increases.
The main reasons for decline are the mass use of products intended to protect plants in modern farming from pests; urbanisation and climate change.
Every individual can help contribute to the preservation of bees and other pollinators and this does not require a great deal of effort.
- Plant nectar-bearing flowers on balconies, terraces and gardens. Bees need access to pollen from March to October. bees especially enjoy tulips, sunflowers, lavender and they also like thyme, rosemary, coriander and dill which you can then use when cooking!
- Buy honey from local beekeepers
- If you have space, leave a section of your garden untended to allow wildflower growth and a natural environment for the bees to collect pollen from native plants
- use bee friendly pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers
- consider building a bug hotel in your garden – not all bees build hives and a lot of species build nests in trees and undergrowth
- Dandelions are often the first source of food for bees (and other insects) in the spring. Put off mowing your lawn a little longer or spraying weedkiller until more food sources are available
- Give thirsty bees a drink! We built a bee watering station for our garden (see below) to help the bees when they come to visit our lavender and strawberry plants.
- Raising awareness about the importance of bees and how we can help protect them
Build a Bee Watering Station
Collecting pollen is hard work for the bees and providing them with a water source can be a great help. They are simple to put together.
You need a shallow container like a plant pot saucer. We used an old plastic plate (recycling for sustainability).
We then chose some rocks from the garden (and a couple decorated during lockdown last year) and added some glass beads. I placed it onto another old picnic plate as it looked pretty and so it didn’t spill! Water was added to just cover the beads. The idea is to allow a safe spot for the bees to land on while they drink the water.
Then choose a spot in the garden – I decided mine should go higher up so that my dog didn’t drink the water (or decide to do a little watering himself!). All that’s needed now is to top up the water level when required.
Hopefully we have some bees visiting soon!
We had a few tired bees in our garden last year, which my son was happy to try and help. We found a couple on the decking which we gave some water to and then popped on a flower. He has been inspired by following Texas Beeworks on YouTube and Instagram. They have a lot of interesting videos on relocating hives.
Please try and implement some of these suggestions to help the plight of the bees, they have a very important role to play and need our help to continue to do it.