Save theBee Habitat
We all adore bees, especially at Flying Flowers. For a starter, seeing a bee buzzing over the tops of flowers conjures up the perfect image of summer. Plus those little, fluffy bundles of stripes look just so cute. On top of all that, these superstars actually help to deliver the food we get on our plates.
But we’ve got a problem, our bee population is in a bit of trouble. Their natural habitat is declining too fast, and the bees are struggling to survive. They need our help and it will only take a few small changes from all of us to make a big difference. Ready to get started? Let’s tell you all about the habitat of our buzzy friends and what you can do to help save the bee habitat.
Why are Bees Important?
So, why do we need to help the bees? You may not realise it, but they are VIPs in disguise - that’s Very Important Pollinators to you and me. Not convinced, well it’s down to the fact that bees are so good at pollinating flowering plants, including the crops we need for some of the food we eat. It’s been estimated that every third bite on our plate is delivered by nature’s pollinators, with bees doing the largest portion of the work.
Thanks to the work of bees we can enjoy food such as fruit, coffee, tomatoes, potatoes and best of all – chocolate! That’s before we even consider our favourite toast topper delivered by the honeybee – honey. It’s not all about the food either, did you know that your favourite cotton t-shirt is all thanks to the bees pollinating the plant as well? Pretty amazing stuff.
Where Do Bees Live?
Now, it’s time for us to clear up a bit of confusion, not all bees live in beehives. You see, it’s only our good friends the honeybees who live in those lovely wooden houses that beekeepers look after.
Take a look at fluffy bumblebees and, although they like to live in colonies, they prefer finding their own home in the wild. In your garden, they’ll look for a dry and dark spot like a compost pile, under a shed or in an empty birdhouse. Some of them even prefer to head underground and will happily find a spot in an abandoned rodent burrow. If you ever see a bumblebee digging their way underground, don’t be alarmed, they’re just heading to their nest.
Now onto the solitary bees. As you can guess from their name, this lot prefers to be alone which makes it a lot easier to find a nesting site. Like our friend the bumblebees, this lot are very happy digging underground to find a home, such as the aptly named mining bee. If you’ve ever seen small mounds of earth on the edge of a field, in your lawn or even flowerbeds, it’ll be this lot.
However, don’t be surprised if you find solitary bees living in other spots. You may find the wonderfully named red mason bee burrowing into some crumbling mortar in an old building. The amazing carpenter bee loves to find a bit of softwood such as a porch or an old tree, while carder bees love to nest in cavities such as rodent holes or bird nests. If you’re lucky enough to have patchwork leafcutter or hairy-footed flower bees in your area (they stick to the shoreline), you’ll find them happily nesting in plant stems or holes on the side of a cliff.
Why are Bees in Trouble?
If bees can easily find a home in most places, why are they in so much trouble? It’s down to the fact that everything is changing far too quickly.
The three main reasons are:
- Loss of habitat– this is without doubt one of the most significant threats to our bees. Intensive farming methods have seen the loss of wildlife-friendly meadows while new housing developments have paved over their natural habitat.
- Climate change – shifting temperatures has had a big impact on our seasons. Weather patterns have become less predictable with summer droughts, flooding, colder springs and storms resulting in bees being unable to find the flowering plants they depend on.
- Pesticides – when these are used on crops, they are lethal for the bees. The pesticides they spray on the plants spread throughout the plant tissues and end up in the pollen and nectar. The bee picks up the tasty food and end up consuming the pesticides. This then kills the bee.
A report by the World Wildlife Foundation decided to look at how these changes were affecting bees. The report looked at the East of England, which is one of the richest regions for bees in the UK and supports many at risk species. Of the 228 bee species recorded in the region it is thought that 17 species are now extinct, 25 species are considered threatened, and another 31 species are to be of concern. That’s almost a third of species either lost or at risk.
It's not limited to the UK either, other reports from around the world looking into these factors have seen similar results.
What Happens If We Don’t Save the Bee Habitat?
To put it simply, we’re going to have a big problem producing enough food to eat. After all, bees are the most efficient pollinators around. If they all disappeared, farmers would have to manually pollinate their crops. It is estimated it would cost an eyewatering £1.8 billion every year to do the job.
It doesn’t stop at food either, bees also promote biodiversity. By pollinating our flowers and plants, bees ensure our countryside ecosystem stays healthy. Helping the plants to reproduce and grow in turn helps all the other animals such as encouraging insects which are then eaten by other creatures such as birds, lizards and frogs. Everyone depends on each other.
How You Can Keep the Bee Habitat Thriving
The good news is that we can all do our bit. Even small changes can make a big difference to the bee population.
Here are the top four things you can do:
1. Start by creating a bee-friendly haven. Don’t worry if you don’t have much space, you can easily grow a wide range of bee-loving flowers in a window box or a selection of plant pots.
When planting your flowers, make sure they are flowers that bees love. They particularly like varieties that are pollen-rich, full of colour (blue and yellow work best) and smell delicious. Consider the growing seasons for the flowers. The idea is to have flowers blooming all through spring and summer so they can constantly stop by for a quick snack, but there are also some bee-friendly winter plants around.
2. As well as giving the bees something to feast on, you also need to remember to give them a good drink. It’s thirsty work hunting for pollen! Make your own bee drinking station by filling a tray or bird bath with water. You will need to add in some pebbles, so the bees have a safe place to sit and reach the water without drowning. If you have a pond, add in some floating-leaved plants or rocks where the bees can land.
3. With their rapidly disappearing habitat, bees are finding it hard to find a space place for their nests. If you have a garden or an allotment, let a section of the space go wild. Some bees love long grass while others will use a compost heap as a nest. You will need to make sure that you don’t disturb the area so that you protect their nests. If you’ve only got a small area, why not set up a five-star bee hotel? It helps the bees out by giving them a safe, dry and warm space to create their nests.
4. Think about becoming more sustainable. Try and recycle as much as you can. Some ideas include reducing the amount of energy used by turning the thermostat down by one degree, going meat-free once a week or starting to grow your own vegetables. There are loads of little changes you can make in your everyday life that will make a big different to our climate.