1. What is the significance of bees in the wider environment and what do they do that is so unique?
Bees go out into their environment in their hunt for food which means collecting nectar from flowers, and by doing so they are helping pollinate the different flowers and blossoms which in turn produces more seeds or fruits, which carries on the lifecycle of nature. They are a key part of the environment. With bees, you get back what you put in, so by looking after them and making sure they have everything they need, will pay dividends for years to come.
2. Why is the bee population declining?
One of the key factors is simply due to a loss of habitat. Increased building work for housing means that there are less wild areas left naturally for the bees and other wildlife to thrive in. Domestic gardens are kept very tidy when actually sometimes it would be good to leave a corner to go wild for the bees. Intensively farmed land is also a problem for the bee population, with the use of pesticides that spread not just onto the fields but to the edges and into the hedgerows that kill off grubs, caterpillars, aphids which then has a knock on effect on the wider food chain.
3. What can we do to help? Talk about bee houses, water sources, we could all do our bit to help.
Bees require a lot of water, so a bird bath with sloping sides would be ideal. They use water in the hive to keep the hive cool, the bees collect the water and take it back to the hive, which then evaporates cooling the hive.
Bumblebees like to live underground or in little nooks and crannies around the garden – a shoe sized box left in a corner of the garden won’t take up much room but will provide shelter for a bumblebee. Leave a wild corner in your garden for wildlife.
4. What sorts of flowers can we plant in our gardens to encourage bees?
Bees need flowers all year round if possible. In the summer they have a choice, but we can really help the pollinators by planting early spring flowers for example, snowdrops and crocuses, and thinking about autumn flowers like sedums and heathers. Also think about trees that have blossoms and catkins – bees love these types of things.
5. What should we avoid using in our gardens to help the bee population thrive?
Avoid excessive use of the lawnmower, just cut a footpath strip and leave the rest. Also avoid planting too many double flowers – they do look pretty, but too many petals make access difficult for bees as they can’t crawl in to get to the nectar and pollen. Also try and avoid using weed killers where possible – dig up the weeds instead of spraying them. Gardeners won’t like this, but dandelions are much loved by bees!!