With just 24 species of bee now left in the UK, two already extinct and many more in decline both here and around the world, bees are facing many threats.
The main threat they are facing is large-scale changes to the way the countryside is managed and the ever-growing need for quantities of food and crops at cheaper prices, which have resulted in habitat loss and destruction, as well as the effects of harmful pesticides and disease.
Climate change is another crucial factor that threatens bee populations by not only disrupting bee nesting behaviour, but also the timing of the flowering of plants that bees rely on for food.
Bees are big business
An estimated third of our food is dependent on pollination. Although other animals, insects and wind transfers pollen, one of the most important transfer methods is via the honey bee. Thanks to their special adaptations designed to maximise the collection of pollen and nectar from flowers, they can transfer pollen on a huge scale.
This is not only vital for the food we eat directly but also for foraging crops used to feed the livestock we depend on for meat. In other words, bees are an essential part of the food chain, and as well as providing pollination for food crops, they also of course provide honey! It’s estimated that bees now even contribute more than £400,000 million to the UK economy each year.
But today, 1 in 10 of Europe’s wild bee species is facing extinction. So what does this mean for us? And what would happen without the bees?
Bees and me
A world without bees means we could struggle to sustain the global human population; it’s estimated that our supermarkets would have at least half the amount of fruit and vegetables. So what can we do today to help save the bees?
Create a bee-friendly garden:When bees cannot find agricultural crops to feed on, they rely on garden flowers for a diverse diet of nectar and pollen. You can create a bee-friendly garden by planting daisy-shaped flowers and tall plants like honeysuckle, wild roses, lavender, foxgloves, hollyhocks, clematis and hydrangeas.
Stuck for space? A few window boxes with fruit, vegetables and herbs also attracts foraging honey bees looking for a food source. Discover more about creating a bee-friendly garden here.
Become a beekeeper:Not only will you be helping to protect the bees, but with beekeeping you’ll get to enjoy your very own honey! It doesn’t matter where you live, as beehives are equally suited to both rural and urban environments as they can forage on a mixture of plants from local gardens and parks.
A bee hotel is also a low commitment alternative to becoming a beekeeper – all you need to do is find a place in your garden to install a bee nest, which you can easily make yourself. Find out more here.