There’s no doubt that our bee population is in trouble. Over recent years, bees have been under assault from a combination of habitat loss, insecticide use, climate change, and some particularly nasty parasites. As a result, bee numbers are declining, and that’s alarming news not only for the environment, but also for our food production.
We all know that bees are vital pollinators, but the amount they contribute to our food production is jaw dropping. Bees pollinate around 70 types of crop, and they’re not just the ones you might think. Apart from their essential role in growing fruit — around 85% of the apple crop and 45% of strawberry crop depend on bees — these tireless workers also help pollinate vegetable staples, such as cucumber and broccoli. On top of that, they also contribute to meat production by pollinating plants that feed livestock, such as clover.
In short, our dinner table and our farmers depend on a healthy bee population. The good news is that there are two simple ways you can help bees to flourish.
Making your garden bee-friendly
One straightforward way to help our native bees is to adapt our gardens to become bee-friendly habitats. Creating a bee-friendly garden is not difficult, and has the added benefit of making outdoor spaces more varied and vibrant.
Our five most important steps are:
- Let your lawn bloom! Many of the flowering species traditionally seen as weeds, such as dandelion and clover, are important food sources for bees. Converting just a little of your lawn from green desert to natural meadow can really help.
- Keep the flowers coming. Bees need a steady food supply from March to October, so try to choose plants that flower at different times. That way, they always have food available (and you have constant colour).
- Provide a watering station. Bees need fresh, clean water but can easily drown: a shallow container with some pebbles to stand on gives them an excellent watering station.
- Add a fruit tree. Bees love fruit trees, and their dense concentration of flowers allows them to save energy when they’re foraging. Even a dwarf fruit-tree in a pot can make a difference.
- Avoid neonicotinoid pesticides. These can have a devastating effect on bees. Despite a UK ban in 2021, there are still plenty hanging around in British garden sheds. Read the labels and look for sustainable alternatives.
Support bee-friendly farming
Another powerful method of preserving our bee population is by supporting bee-friendly farming.
With 70% of the UK land given over to agriculture, farmers have a crucial role in maintaining a healthy bee population. As consumers, we can encourage this by choosing what ends up on our dinner tables, and making our voices heard about food production.
At The Consumer Brand, we’re helping that to happen. We work with a number of UK food producers who are passionate about helping bees and other hard-pressed species to thrive. In addition to providing bee-friendly habitats, they form a network of educators who share practical advice with the UK farming community. Joining in The Consumer Brand’s mission gives you a direct way of supporting these farmers and helping them to spread the word.
Whatever you choose to do, it’s clear that our bees need all the help they can get. We hope you’ll lend them a hand.
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