Those black and yellow striped insects we call bees can be annoying when they’re buzzing around you, although it’s important to point out that bees will only sting you in self-defence (so by running away waving your arms around you’re probably just antagonising the bee), but many people don’t have any idea about the importance of the bee. You’re probably aware that they help pollinate various flowers, fruits and vegetables but you may not be aware just how much we depend on it. With bees disappearing due to a variety of factors it’s important we encourage an environment that bees can thrive in, otherwise we’ll end up in a very bad position indeed.
Why Are Bees So Important?
Bees, particularly the honey bee, are important for the human race’s continued existence as they are the world’s most important pollinator of food crops. It is estimated that one third of the food that we consume each and every day relies on pollination mainly carried out by bees; although other insects and birds also play a part.
In the UK many domestic and imported fruits and vegetables require pollination, so bees are very much needed if the crops that feed us are to remain. Just go into your local supermarkets fruit and vegetable section and a lot of what is there – including raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes and peppers – only exist because bees have helped pollinate them. In fact, the British Bee Keepers Association estimates that honey bees and bumble bees contribute over £200 million to the UK’s economy through insect pollination. So, bees aren’t just feeding us but they are also helping keep our economy afloat – all from one little insect!
Why Are Bees Disappearing?
You’ve probably heard all the stories in the media about bees disappearing at an alarming rate, and while some of them are obviously scaremongering it’s still very much happening and it’s something that we all need to start to combat.
Bees are disappearing due to a number of factors; and the majority of them are probably down to our society. Firstly, it is strong belief that an increasing use of chemical pesticides and herbicides are partly to blame, as honey bees ingest these while carrying out pollination. Genetically modified crops may also play a part, but it’s important to note that research into this is still very much ongoing. Apparently though, places where chemicals and genetically modified crops aren’t used are not experiencing the massive losses of bees as places with them unfortunately are.
A loss of habitat is also a big factor in declining bee populations. As more land is dedicated to urban building, farming and other things the flower-rich wild fields of old are being destroyed. This is why it’s important to create a garden habitat that going to attract a healthy bee population, and I’ll tell you how you can go about doing that next.
What Can You Do To Make Your Garden Bee Friendly?
You can watch the video above for some tips on what you can do to ensure your garden remains attractive to bees, but here’s a brief run-down.
First off you should be planting a variety of flowers. Native varieties with single flowers work best in the UK, as they tend to contain more pollen and nectar than plants from abroad. Flowers you should choose are as follows; roses, sunflowers, geraniums, lavender, herbs like thyme and chives are all perfect for attracting more bees to your humble garden. Some varieties of flowers aren’t really suitable for bees, such as those with tightly packed heads or petals that form long tunnels. These are difficult to access for bees so can’t be used as a source of food for them.
You should also provide a source of water for bees, as like any animal they need to drink. You don’t have to have a special pond for bees or anything silly like that, instead water sources that will also do for other animals are fine; such as ponds and bird baths.
You often think of bees of being in hives, but this isn’t always the case. There are about 250 different species of bee in the UK; although only 24 are bumble bees are one species is a honey bee. This means that the rest are solitary bees and like to lay their eggs in places such as small holes in trees or other woods. You can create your own bee house simply by drilling some holes in a bit of wood. An American man, Chester Lee, creates bee poles – basically small holes drilled into loose wood – to encourage bees to lay their eggs and continue breeding. A few of these will do wonders for the local bee population!
As I already mentioned, keep your garden free of pesticides as these can be damaging to the bees. Also make sure that the plants and flowers that you choose flower in different seasons so that there isn’t a lack of food for the bees in certain months of the year. They should also be colourful, as these don’t only make your garden attractive but are also extremely attractive to bees when planted in clumps.
So, now you know why bees are important are should be encouraged to thrive. Now that you have the knowledge about why and how you should make your garden bee friendly, make sure you incorporate it into your regular gardening schedule.