75% of all the foods that we eat are the result of pollination from insect pollinators, such as bees. Without them, we would be busy pollinating plants ourselves, using brushes (don’t laugh, this is actually a reality in some places!) or eating wind-pollinated foods such as corn.
In the UK, bee pollination services contribute an estimated £200 million per year to the UK economy. If we were to take over the role of pollination from bees in the UK alone, it would require a workforce of 30 million people!
Disappearance of bees is a very real threat, with honeybee numbers dropping by 50% in the last 25 years (and other pollinators expected to be the same if not worse). Other bee species are also declining, with habitat loss the primary cause for this. However, pesticides and human development are also a big problem for bees — even small amounts of pesticides have been associated with declines in the number of nest queens and increase in the number”disappeared” bees – those that fail to return from food foraging trips. And despite ample evidence for this, the British government is failing to take necessary steps to reduce it’s pesticide use (see this recent article in The Independent).
The good news is that even while those at the top dither, we can all help make a difference. The best thing we can do to help bees is to plant native flowers in the garden. Not only do they look fantastic, they’re hardy, resistant to slugs and pests, suited to our climate, and they’re bursting with pollen and nectar. If you have access to a larger area of land, why not plant (or encourage the owner to plant) a whole meadow, or a strip of wildflowers along field and road verges. You could also take part in national bee surveys, or learn to become a beekeeper.
AND if you have an allotment or grow veg, setting aside space for a wildflower meadow is a great way to return the favour for the bees’ pollination services!
Remember: “Beanz Meanz Beez”