Of pretty much any ecosystem – the humble bee can be considered a keystone species upon which humans rely possibly more than any other insect. Whatever your dietary requirements – you can pretty much be sure that the bee played a role by pollinating the plant from which it came. Globally bees are responsible for pollinating around a sixth of all flowering plants and around 400 types of farmed plant crops.
Across the world there are around 25,000 different types of bee (in the UK we have a few hundred species, in the US there are around 4,000 species). They can be categorised into 3 general groups here in the UK – honey bees, bumble bees and solitary bees. Numbers have been in decline for a number of years due to a multitude of factors including increase in pesticide use, climate change, habitat loss, change in land usage and disease. So what can be done about it?
Bee friendly gardening
The first thing anyone with any outdoor space can do is plant bee friendly plants in their garden. Many garden centres do now label plants as bee friendly – keep an eye out for the Royal Horticultural Society’s Plants for Pollinators logo or for bee friendly seed mixes. The native wild flowers here in the UK that are preferred by bees are things like foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), red clover (Trifolium pratense), wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare) and viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare). Support bees throughout the year by having a selection of plants that do flower throughout the seasons.
Bee friendly gardening isn’t just about what you plant in your garden – it’s also about how you care for it. Avoiding the use of pesticides in your garden will help your local bee population.
Give a bee a home
Leaving an area of grass to grow longer in your garden will provide bees with a place to shelter. You can also buy or create a bee hotel for your garden – perfect for solitary bees.
Save a bee
It’s not uncommon during the warmer months to stumble across a bee in need on the pavement or in your garden. If you do find a lethargic bee that seems to be struggling – there’s a really easy way to help. Mix some sugar with water on a teaspoon and place it on the ground next to the bee. It will help give them some energy to revive them.
So … that’s our guide on how you can look after bees where you are. Please bee kind.
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