Decline of Bees - What does this mean for us?
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
Decline of bees
Honey bee numbers have declined drastically in recent years and Bumble bees, of which there are 25 species in the UK, have fallen by 70% in the last 30 years.
There are many causes for the decline in world bee populations including change in farming methods to intensive monoculture, loss of meadows and wild areas, pesticides, diseases, parasites, stress, climate change, pollution, and malnutrition.
Role of bees in food production
Plants need to be pollinated to produce seeds and fruit crops which are relied on by humans and animals for food.
Plants depend either on wind or animals to pollinate. Over 87% of flowering plants require animal pollinators, mostly insects such as bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, mayflies and moths. Bee pollination accounts for 1/3 of the food we eat. Bees visit plants to collect nectar and pollen to feed their young.
Plants communicate with pollinators
Plants can communicate a nectar source to pollinators by
changing colour of the flower
emitting attractive scent or
This makes pollination more efficient as a bee will not need to visit a flower that had recently given up its nectar.
Honey bees will fly up to 3 miles to reach a nectar source and will visit up to 1,000 flowers per foraging trip. They communicate the location of a rich nectar source to the colony by performing a complex waggle dance.
The Role of Beekeepers
As a result of introduced diseases there are far fewer wild bee colonies in the UK. Most beekeeping in the UK is carried out by amateur Beekeepers belonging to the British Beekeeping Association which promotes best practice to maintain the health and survival of bees.
In the wild only 25% of colonies survive over winter; this can be due to disease, physical damage and starvation. Colonies managed by beekeepers in 2016 had a survival rate of 85%.
It is frequently thought that extracting honey from colonies puts bees at risk. This is incorrect, not only do bees overproduce honey but it often granulates becoming impossible for the bees to eat. This can result in starvation, even with a hive full of honey.
A beekeeper checks their hives to ensure bees have a manageable source of food for the winter.
What can you do? follow the links
Become a Beekeeper – which is great fun
Plant flowers rich in nectar and pollen. Bees prefer flowers with small heads like daisies, lavender and herbs which open in succession over several weeks.
Allow parts of the garden to become wild, a messy garden is perfect habitat for pollinators
Build or buy a bee house – Build a Bee Hotel
Be a friend to Pollinators