Macro photo of a honey bee

Give bees a chance

You might not think it, but a third of the food we eat each day is provided thanks to the work of honeybees.

A large quantity of foodstuffs we regularly eat must be pollinated first before they can be produced. Unless we came up with a way of painstakingly creating mini-drones to pollinate crops and flowers ourselves, the good old honeybee will have to do.

The only problem? Bees are in a crisis, and they need our help now more than ever. What affects bees ultimately affects the entire food chain, and we simply cannot afford to let bees disappear from our skies.

A hive of activity

One of the more well-known things we associate with bees is honey. This golden sugary substance is produced when bees drink nectar from the centre of flowers. The nectar is directed into the bee’s honey stomach, while the bee picks up on pollen as it moves from flower to flower. Bees return to their hive when their honey stomach is full, and they chew on the nectar amongst themselves until it turns into honey.

A bit of condensing with a few flutters of their wings helps the honey turn more solid, allowing bees to store the substance on honeycombs, capped off with wax to keep their food source fresh. When it comes to pollination, bees are beyond compare. They help pollinate plants producing foodstuffs from almonds to vanilla, and from apples to squash.

Bees are highly-sensitive creatures which communicate through odours such as pheromones, but man-made chemicals such as pesticides can throw a spanner in the works and harm them. Scientists are concerned about a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), whereby the worker bees vanish en-masse, leaving the queen bee and a hive populated only by nurse and infant bees, plus a surplus of food.

Saving our bees

Issues like CCD mean fewer honeybees pollinating the crops we rely on for much of our diet, and could spell disaster for wildlife. That’s because bees help pollinate 80 per cent of our wildflowers. Fortunately, all is not lost by a long shot, and there are groups actively helping protect these vulnerable yet powerful insects.

The Bee Friendly Trust is just one of several UK-based charitable organisations doing their bit to keep UK bees buzzing. Ever spotted a micro-wildlife garden on a nearby train station platform? That will be the work of the Bee Friendly Trust, as they try to create new habitats for bees to populate. By putting a honeycomb of nectar-laden oasis-like mini-gardens all over urban environments, it is hoped we can overcome the issue of bees suffering from starvation, which is believed to be a common issue behind the CCD phenomenon.

How to bee friendly!

Go wild:

Create a colourful garden and introduce an array of native wildflowers such as primrose, daffodils, forget-me-nots and marigolds.

If you can, leave a space in your garden to go wild, with long grasses and compost heaps for the bees to enjoy!

Build a bee home:

Build an ‘insect hotel’ by crafting a resting place and shelter for bees and other insects from bamboo, twigs, dried grass and pine cones.

Help a tired bee:

Place a few drops of sugary water next to a tired bee to help revive them. To create the solution, mix two teaspoons of white granulated sugar with one teaspoon of water.

Eat sustainable honey:

Where possible, choose locally sourced honey from beekeepers who practice sustainable beekeeping. This not only helps local businesses but reduces the carbon emissions used when shipping honey to your local supermarket.

Wondering what you could do in your own way to protect bees near you? If you have a garden, try ditching the use of pesticides and artificial fertilisers and consider planting an array of wildflowers to attract more bees. Not only will they give them something to drink nectar from, but they’ll transform your garden into a colourful space.

Spotted a bee that’s looking tired? It may need a feed and you could be in a position to help it. The WWF suggests taking two teaspoons of sugar, mixing it with a teaspoon of water and leaving the mixture on a plate for the bee to come and drink. Pure honey simply won’t do, as it could actually harm bees.

Every little helps when it comes to bees, and the steps we take to make to our environment more bee friendly can help nurture them, as they help feed us in turn.

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