WHERE would we be without the humble bee – pollinators of the world? Our very eco-system relies on these little heroes, and now gardeners everywhere are being urged to do more to protect bumblebees and solitary bees.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and The Wildlife Trusts have joined forces to launch the Bee Creative in the Garden initiative as the many, once-common, native species of bees are under increasing pressure largely due to loss of habitat.
In the countryside, 97 per cent of lowland meadow has already been lost, and the dramatic decrease in suitable habitats isn’t just confined to rural areas.
The network of 15 million gardens that once formed ‘green corridors’ for wildlife are disappearing at an alarming rate. In London alone, vegetated garden land the size of 2.5 Hyde Parks is lost each year*.
The number of front gardens that have been paved over has tripled in a decade and more than five million have no plants growing at all.
The charities will be arming gardeners with the advice, insights and inspiration they need to create wildlife havens and habitats that support wild bees as they emerge from their nests in early spring to forage for food.
Gardeners who want to do their bit can download a free, wild bee-friendly gardening guide - ‘Get your garden buzzing for bees’ - from this website. It contains lots of facts about the different species of wild bee, their lifecycles and how they nest, as well as practical steps gardeners can take to help them.
Wildlife events and a ‘Bee Creative’ photo competition will also be taking place from April 1 to November 1 as bees buzz during the gardeners' growing season and then look for nesting sites in autumn. Helen Bostock, Senior Horticultural Advisor at the RHS, said: “A healthy garden is buzzing with bees and other pollinators. By providing nesting sites and growing nectar- and pollen-rich flowers - gardeners can and do support a wide variety of bumblebee and solitary bees.”
Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager, The Wildlife Trusts, says: “Anyone can take action to help wild bees, whether you have a wall for vertical planting, window box, or back garden. It’s easy to plant a bee haven, and fun choosing between bee-friendly beauties such as borage, foxglove and honeysuckle.”
To enter the Bee Creative photo competition gardeners, gardening groups and schools are encouraged to share how they’ve welcomed wild bees into their gardens by posting a picture on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram of their bee-friendly area, whether that be a tailor-made bee home, a flower-packed border or a wall that bees have made their own.
Use the hashtag #wildaboutgardens and note the category being entered. A list of the wildlife gardening events taking place can be found on the website, with more being added as the season progresses.
The Bee Creative in the Garden campaign will culminate in Wild About Gardens Week, which will run from October, 23 – 29 with a fun-filled week of special activities focused on how to help bees survive the winter ahead.
Ten Bee Facts:
1. The honey bee has been around for millions of years.
2. Honey bees, scientifically also known as Apis mellifera, which mean "honey-carrying bee", are environmentally friendly and are vital as pollinators.
3. It is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.
4. Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water; and it's the only food that contains "pinocembrin", an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.
5. The honey bee's wings stroke incredibly fast, about 200 beats per second, thus making their famous, distinctive buzz. A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.
6. The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime
7. A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.
8. Only worker bees sting, and only if they feel threatened and they die once they sting. Queens have a stinger, but they don't leave the hive to help defend it. It is estimated that 1100 honey bee stings are required to be fatal.
9. Each honey bee colony has a unique odour for members' identification.
10. A colony of bees consists of 20,000-60,000 honeybees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work.