Small but mighty, bees keep our eco-systems working to perfection, but they are in danger and need your help.
Bees – both bumble and humble, and most importantly, vital to our environment. Although they seem to quietly blend into the background, they dutifully pollinate the flowers in our gardens. But what makes them so key to our natural world? Bees pollinate flowers, which helps plants reproduce. If this process didn’t happen, there’d be no fruits, vegetables, coffee, chocolate or any resource that derives from a plant. In fact, according to The Guardian, 84 per cent of the crops grown for human consumption (which is around 400 different types of plants) need bees to pollinate them.
Yet, sadly these yellow and black striped insects are on the decline. There are five UK bee species that are under threat of extinction. And, all species face serious threats according to Friends of the Earth. And it comes as a further blow that recently the European Commission announced they would be delaying the implementation of new bee-saving pesticide testing standards by a full two years – which may well be too late. We’ve made a beeline for these creatures and suggest five ways you can help them.
No one wants weeds growing in their garden but getting rid of them shouldn’t be at the detriment of bees. Boycott using pesticides, fungicides or herbicides as these can contaminate plants and kill bees in the process. If you want to discourage the growth of weeds, there are plenty of natural and organic options that won’t cause harm to them – vinegar and Epsom salt are two good alternatives.
Plant all year round
Bees need a home, too! Planting throughout the seasons will ensure they have food and shelter even when it’s cold and rainy outside. Make sure that towards the latter end of winter each year, you remember to sow seeds for spring and summer plants.
Ditch the lawn mover
A freshly cut lawn may be aesthetically pleasing to the eye but letting glass grow is of benefit to the bees as again it provides them with protection and a place to feed. If you’re not keen to let you grass glow too long, you could always raise the notches on the mower to lift the cutting blade a few centimetres.
Create a bee bath
You’ve heard of bird baths, and this is pretty much the exact same principle but on a smaller, bee-shaped scale. Fill a small bowl with water, arranging with stones for the bees to land on. This gives them a platform to drink the water from when they need a break from pollinating.
Welcome other (helpful) insects
Give your bees a few allies in the form of beneficial bugs like ladybirds, beetles and hoverflies. These all hunt pests like asphids, so are a friend of both bees and your garden.