The importance of bees
World Bee Day, Friday 20 May 2022, is a great opportunity to consider what we can all do to make our outdoor spaces better for bees.
Gardeners have noticed that there is less of a buzz in the air because bee numbers have been falling dramatically in recent years. Experts are worried that this trend might continue and, if it does, it could have serious implications.
Bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen, which they use as food for themselves and the larvae in their hives or nests. By moving from flower to flower, bees are important pollinators of many garden and wild flowers.
Insect pollination is also essential for the cropping of most fruits and some vegetables. Without the bees, there would be significantly less food for people to eat. Honeybees don't just make honey - they pollinate more than 90 of the tastiest flowering crops we have including apples, nuts, avocados, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash and cucumbers. They also pollinate sweet and tart crops such as citrus fruit, blueberries, cranberries and strawberries.
Bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, are increasingly under threat from human activities. Pollination is a fundamental process for the survival of our ecosystems. Nearly 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend, entirely, or at least in part, on animal pollination, along with more than 75% of the world’s food crops and 35% of global agricultural land. Not only do pollinators contribute directly to food security, but they are key to conserving biodiversity.
The Council has started delivering it’s five-year Wildflower and Grassland Strategy action plan, with 45 mini native wildflower meadows being created across the borough this summer. You can read more about the Council’s plans on the wildflowers webpage, including details about the ‘Cheshire’ seed mix being that has been created for this project. Residents are also able to purchase the wildflower mix to use in their own gardens.
You can help
Go organic: Putting insecticide on your plants might get rid of the insects that eat them, but it also poisons bees. Try using a natural insecticide like putting ladybirds on your plants that will eat the bugs but will not harm the bees. If you want to keep using chemical pesticides, use them sparingly and don’t spray open flowers. Spray in the evening when bees are less active.
Use friendly plants: Bees like to have lots of different, nectar-rich flowers planted close together. They also like varying heights, nice smells and sunny sheltered spots. Bees can only see certain colours and, because of this, are attracted to some flowers more than others. Ideally you should have something in flower every month to give bees something to feed on throughout the whole year.
The best plants for bees are lavender, chives, thyme, mint, rosemary, borage, cornflower verbena, campanula, hellebore, ice plant, greater knapweed, viper's bugloss, sea hollies, poppy, buddleia, hebe, comfrey, Japanese quince, foxglove, aquilegia, winter-flowering honeysuckle and heathers.
Quench their thirst: Bees need to drink. They are too small to be able to drink from ponds or bird tables so putting a little water on a small plate is the best option.
Become a beekeeper: Visit: www.bbka.org.uk to find out how.
Make a bee home: Some species of solitary bees like to nest in small tunnels or holes in the ground or sandy banks. Making a home for these single bees gives them an ideal place in which to lay their eggs. The Countryfile website has a useful guide to help you create one.