Why Bees need our help

Bees are crucial to life on earth – we rely on them to pollinate many of the fruit and veg we eat.
Bumblebees are mainly under threat because of changes to the countryside in the UK. Changes in agricultural techniques have meant that there are far fewer wildflowers in the landscape than there used to be, meaning that many of our bumblebee species are struggling to survive. The dramatic decline in populations of most species, and the extinction of two species in the UK, show that something needs to be done.
Causes of bumblebee declines
When we think of the British and our local countryside we often think of rolling green fields with crops or livestock. However, it wasn’t always this way. Until relatively recently, the British landscape was much more colourful. The fields had many more wildflowers, and these supported a much greater diversity of wildlife. However, technology and demand for increased food production meant that traditional agricultural practises were abandoned in favour of techniques which increased productivity but ultimately reduced the abundance of wildflowers in the countryside. Indeed, it has been estimated that we have lost 97% of our flower-rich grassland since the 1930s. As bees rely entirely upon flowers for food, it is unsurprising that their populations began to rapidly decline in most places. Bees are crucial to life on earth-we rely on them to pollinate many of the fruit and veg we eat, Bees dying is a major threat to our food chain.
The result of this has been that two species have become extinct in the UK since the start of the 21st century:                                                                                                          Cullem’s bumblebee (Bombus cullumanus), was last recorded in 1941.
The Short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus), was last recorded in 1988.
Both of these species are still found in Europe, but the British populations may have been specially adapted to our climate and environment. Sadly, several other bumblebee species are in trouble, and could become extinct in the UK within a short time. Two species in particular, the Great yellow bumblebee and the Shrill carder bee, are now only present in small numbers.

Impact of bumblebee declines
It is well-known that bumblebees are great pollinators, and therefore have a key role in producing much of the food that we eat. Through the pollination of many commercial crops such as tomatoes, peas, apples and strawberries, insects are estimated to contribute over £400 million per annum to the UK economy and €14.2 billion per annum to the EU economy. If bumblebee and other insect pollinator declines continue, the extremely high cost of pollinating these plants by other means could significantly increase the cost of fruit and vegetables.
Bumblebees also help pollinate many wildflowers, allowing them to reproduce. Without this pollination many of these plants would not produce seeds, resulting in declines in wildflowers. As these plants are often the basis of complex food chains, it is easy to imagine how other wildlife such as other insects, birds and mammals would all suffer if bees disappeared.
The government Minister with responsibility for bees-Liz Truss-hasn’t been doing as much as she should to protect our bees. Last month she lifted the ban on on bee killing pesticides in some areas.
Ban lifted on controversial ‘neonic’ pesticide                                              http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-33641646

What can be done?
Fortunately, there is much that can be done to benefit bumblebees.The Bumblebee Conservation Trust works to raise awareness of the plight of the bumblebee amongst the general public. http://bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/why-bees-need-help/ In particular, they help members by providing information about bumblebees, as well as newsletters with information and advice about the latest happenings in the bumblebee world. It is also possible for individuals and other groups to help bumblebees in their own communities. Perhaps the simplest thing to do is to plant some bee-friendly plants in your garden. This is explained more extensively in Gardening for bumblebees. . As gardens cover over one million acres in the UK, this presents a great opportunity to provide food for bumblebees. By using this space more effectively everyone can get involved in making the landscape more friendly to bumblebees and help reverse the declines we have seen.



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9 Responses to Why Bees need our help

  1. christine sadler says:

    thanyou mick again for your interest and i am hoping for your support on wed 9 sept what is so difficult about a conservation policy in a conservation area is completely passing me by perhaps my learned colleagues would be good enough to enlighten me anything helpful gratefully received, ease up on the rude ones please i am old and fragile


  2. Mick Colman says:

    Chris & Hilary, I thank you for the information. Three weeks ago (when the grass was cut) I was just returning from holiday. This is an extract from the published minutes of the July 20th Council meeting… vii) 2015/001 (Cllr Sadler) –request to leave edges of Anston Village Green uncut, to
    promote wildlife. Cllr Sadler was asked to email the Clerk with exact details of what was
    being proposed. In the meanwhile the Clerk was asked to instruct staff to leave an
    additional 1.5m strip of land abutting the hall wall uncut. Laminated signs to be placed
    near the area to inform residents/visitors as to why the area is being left as it is. The
    matter to be brought back to Council once Cllr Sadler has supplied the relevant
    Two questions 1) Did you (Chris) send the Clerk the email? 2) Has the Clerk instructed the ground workers to leave the conservation strip uncut, if so, when?
    One observation… regardless of whether the email was sent to the Clerk or not, the Clerk was asked (by the Council) to instruct the ground working staff to leave the 1.5 meter strip uncut. 1.5 meters is just under 5 feet. Your estimate of about 2 feet does not comply with the 1.5 meters stipulated. In my opinion the Council members are not responsible for either incorrect instructions or instructions being ignored or not carried out correctly by the people concerned. I don’t think that this is on the agenda for the next meeting. Decisions taken by the Council MUST be carried out TO THE LETTER. Otherwise there is no point in Council discussions. The sooner a new staffing committee is formed the better because this is just not good enough.


  3. Hilary Estrada-Haigh says:

    In 2012 I recorded the following species on the western side of Anston Village Green:
    Ramsons Bluebells Daffodil Cleavers Comfrey Jack in the Hedge Various Grasses, Groundsel, Hellebore, Speedwell, Forget me Not Nettles, Honesty, Cow Parsley, Lamium. I made APC aware of these species. The result being, the following mowing of the green these were razed to the ground. The Umbellifers were spectacular, they also went. The trees on which the Tawny Owls perched were also removed. Photos of this massacre are available along with letters of protest from myself and a now retired parish councillor.

    2015 – It is to be hoped that now we have a new parish council they will reverse the destruction. However at the last cut of the village green 2 parish workers were cutting for c1 hour = 2hours of cutting. Not only is this a waste of man hours it is destructive. The village green was reduced to little or no grass. Photographs are available. The native flora that is so nectar rich and critical to the survival of bees obviously vanished.

    I am in the process of analysing the recording of bats foraging over the village green. Obviously they need insects for food which in turn need the plants for their food = The Food Chain.

    Is there is a qualified Lepidopterist out there who would come and assist me to identify the results of my moth trapping?

    We have to take responsibility for this precious space by increasing diversity of flora and create a mosaic of habitat types to increase insect diversity, which will in turn supply food sources for other wildlife including birds and bats.


  4. christine sadler says:

    thankyou Mick for your valuable interest in conservation on The Green. If you had visited the site 3 weeks ago you would have seen utter devastation, the grass cut so short it was yellow, the margin bordering the stone wall was at most 2 feet wide and most other areas strimmed into non existence. This subject will hopefully come up for discussion Wed 9 Sept and I will be asking councillors to authorise liason with Parish ground workers to prevent this happening again, anyone with any interest in this subject will remember me asking for this on a previous occasion and being vetoed by the Chair Clive Jepson without calling for a vote. In my view this CONSERVATION AREA is years overdue for some TLC and APC as trustees of this rare commodity should see that it gets it. Who is giving the orders here, if it is the Clerk to APC then maybe councillors should remind themselves that the Clerk does not live in Anston. If the ground workers are doing as they please then they need some guidance as the present strategy is not consistent with a CONSERVATION AREA AND THE CREATURES LIVING THERE. It is also past time that members of the public were invited to take part in the coming revolution, and I have high hopes that concillors will at least show some interest even if they have not the time to become actively involved.


  5. Mick Colman says:

    Another very good and informative article, well done to the author. Also good responses so far from people who obviously care as much about the environment and who seem to be as concerned about our planet as much as I am. I do however disagree that it is all Anston Parish Councils fault. Especially this current one which is barely a few months old and who Christine is part of, and who is fully aware that there was a mountain of backlogged agenda items to work through. Her agenda item request was discussed by the Council members and a 1.5 meter wide strip of the Green next to the rear grass boundary is to be left uncut to allow the encouragement of wildlife. I visited the Green today and saw that no areas of grass seem to have been cut at all for a while. If and when it is then I expect the wildlife strip to remain uncut thereby granting Christines wishes. Also Christine has asked Council to discuss the formation of a conservation & bio-diversity working group which I would support & may even ask to be part of. If formed then perhaps this group could identify areas of Anston that could be utilised for the encouragement of natural growth to form wildlife habitation. I would like to make it clear that I fully endorse what is said in this article and agree with the responders but wished to make my point that I do not consider the present Parish council are to blame. They are not sleeping and therefore do not need to “wake up” as Christine seems to suggest. PS. Sorry Chris but I felt I had to defend both mine and the Councils corner here.


  6. Veritas. says:

    There are a wide variety of plants (that will grow in almost any soil ) to help bees including;
    Snapdragon, Buddliea (Butterfly bush),Foxglove,Sunflower,Hollyhock, Jacobs Ladder, Iris, Lavendar, Lupin, Mint and Thyme.
    Whether your garden is a balcony, allotment, window box, hanging basket, pots and tubs we can all provide honey bees and other insect pollinators with plenty of pollen and nectar throughout the year.
    So, by planting for bees everyone is a winner.


  7. Hilary Estrada-Haigh says:

    Your readers may be interested to know – In June last year the hard work of Friends of The Earth paid off with the Government announcing a National Pollinator Strategy which FOE had been calling for.

    Major retailers including B&Q, Wicks and Homebase have withdrawn certain pesticides.
    In spring 2013 the European Union voted to restrict three bee-harming pesticides BUT this is due for review at the of THIS YEAR. Pressure needs to be kept up to make sure our bees have a fighting chance. Food and shelter for bees and helping one of the most pressing threats facing bees today- loss of habitat.

    Referring to the wildflower seeds as above – To see where others have planted their seeds go to – bee map: http://www.foe.co.uk/bees

    Please get involved – our food depends upon these tireless workers.
    Good luck.


  8. christine sadler says:

    everyone can can help feed the bees and other wildlife by planting gardens and open spaces appropriately, leaving community grasslands such as The Green at North Anston to naturalise in some parts will go a long way to provide food for a variety of wildlife in particular different species of bees, this is not a lot to ask and simple to do, so wake up Anston Parish Councillors and for the sake of wildlife DO SOMETHING POSITIVE and stop carping on about making The Green tidy!!!!!!! wildlife is not interested in tidy it just wants food. Christine Sadler


  9. Hilary Estrada-Haigh says:

    To help reverse this decline contact Friends of The Earth – foe.co.uk/bees or phone 020 7490 1555 – to support their campaign – The Bee Cause. In return for support you will receive a Thank You card enclosing your Bee Friendly Wildflower seeds. This card contains information and also instructions on how best to plant your seeds.
    97 per cent of wildflowers meadows lost in the past 60 years
    20 bee species in Britain have already become extinct.
    One quarter of remaining bee species are on the RED LIST OF THREATENED SPECIES.

    Thank you for highlighting this most important issue.


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