Top ten easy ways to help bees
Written by Kara Moses   
Tuesday, 29 May 2012 14:26

 Finally, our long-awaited Bee Cause campaign has landed. And it's off to a flying start! A pop-up wildflower meadow created outside the National Theatre by Friends of the Earth (FOE) caused nothing short of a media storm, and the wildflower seeds given away on the FOE website vanished in a single day – all 10,000 packets!

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So why are we campaigning on bees? Because bees are in trouble – their numbers in Britain have fallen dramatically in recent years. Three bumblebee species are already extinct. Many factors are causing the decline, from habitat loss to disease and climate change. There is also growing evidence that some pesticides seriously harm bees.

 

We need bees. They are essential to our food supply, economy and quality of life: they pollinate 75% of our most vital crops and favourite foods. Without bees and other insects we'd also have 20% less vitamin C, 41% less vitamin A and 9% less calcium. Without bees it would cost UK farmers £1.8 billion a year to pollinate our crops – that's more than it costs farmers to produce all the milk consumed in the UK every year. They're essential to our gardens, parks and countryside – bees and other insects help pollinate over 75% of our plants, which in turn are vital to our insects, birds and animals.

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One of the great things about our new Bee Cause campaign is that there are loads of really simple actions that everyone can do to get involved and do their bit for the bee: from planting a few flowers and signing the petition, to volunteering at events and becoming a beekeeper. In no particular order, here are my top ten suggestions for what you can do take action.

 

  1. Sign our petition for a National Bee Action Plan that will intervene across a range of sectors to save the British bee. We want David Cameron to publicly acknowledge the need for central Government to adopt and implement this plan, which will be inspired by the actions we take together. Share the petition with your friends and family, through social media, email and by speaking to them. Visit  www.foe.co.uk/beecause to sign the petition.

 

  1. Write to your MP to urge them to put pressure on the government to implement a National Bee Action Plan and encourage the local council to make your local area more bee friendly (e.g. bee friendly plants in parks, city centres and Cities in Bloom competitions).

 

  1. in your garden, window boxes and balconies. Wildflowers are especially rich in the nutritious nectar that pollinators feed upon, but have suffered dramatic declines during the last century: since the 1930s, UK wildflower meadows have declined by a staggering 97%. This is one of the reasons why numbers of pollinating insects have fallen. As well as wildflowers, you can plant native species with easy-access single (not double) flower heads – think foxgloves, bluebells and viper’s bugloss – and avoid fussy hybrid plants like double-headed begonias, busy-lizzies and bedding geraniums. They may look pretty but they have little or no nectar or pollen for bees. Look for plants on the Royal Horticultural Society's ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ list of plants to grow by season: http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardening/Sustainable-gardening/pdfs/RHS_Pollinators_PlantList.pdf

 

  1. Make your garden pollinator friendly. As well as planting the plants that pollinators need to survive, you can: ensure your plants are well watered to enable them to produce plenty of nectar; provide smaller saucers of water for bees to drink; use chemical-free seeds (available by mail order from places like Garden Organic (based near Coventry), Laura's Organics, Habitat Aid); mow your lawn less often to allow dandelions and daisies to grow (which will also produce a greener, stronger lawn which requires less watering); and leave fallen leaves on the ground for caterpillars and moths to hide from predators in. Avoid using chemicals such as pesticides and insecticides as these are designed to kill insects – bees are insects! By not using these substances you will help other wildlife too, encouraging biodiversity in your garden. There are more natural ways of controlling 'pests', such as companion planting.

 

  1. Help your local area become more bee friendly – Friends of the Earth local groups around the country are inviting people to see their local area afresh, through bees' eyes if you like, to map what's in the area that is good for bees and where there are areas for improvement. So get out on a bee walk! Or join us on ours later in the summer (18th August). You can also ask your local park and council to plant wildflowers and other bee-friendly plants in the parks and around city centres and suburbs.

 

  1. Volunteer at BFOE bee events over the summer. We have a load of events lined up that we need volunteers to help with, including stalls at various events, a fundraiser in collaboration with the Free Love Club (September), a bee walk (18th August), a family day at Martineau Gardens (28th July), a 'How to help bees' workshop/discussion at the MAC alongside foraging and a concert (23rd June), and a petition-signing stunt in town dressed as bees with a rugby team! (also 23rd June). Get in touch if you can help out or just want to come along.

 

  1. by providing habitat for wood-nesting and stem-nesting solitary bees such as mason bees and leaf-cutting bees. Encouraging bees into your garden will help bring it into bloom. See the Bee Guardian step-by-step guide (www.beeguardianfoundation.org). You can also buy them ready-made. You can get a 25% discount on a Crocus bee box through the Co-operative's Plan Bee campaign. See http://www.co-operative.coop/corporate/ethicsinaction/takeaction/planbee.

 

  1. The British Beekeepers' Association estimates that over 90 per cent of the UK's honeybee population is thanks to the efforts of 17,000 amateur beekeepers. Why not help boost the dwindling numbers and join them? You don't need a lot of space, you don't even need a garden – you can keep a bee hive on a balcony! See the Ecologist's guide to becoming an urban beekeeper: http://www.theecologist.org/how_to_make_a_difference/food_and_gardening/473024/how_to_be_an_urban_beekeeper.html

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  1. Buy organic. Insecticides, pesticides and insecticides are harmful chemicals for wildlife, particularly insects such as bees.  Research has shown that pesticides, neonicotinoids in particular are extremely harmful to bees, interfering with their ability to navigate their way home after foraging trips, and produce queens in their nests. By buying organic foods you avoid supporting the use of these harmful substances.

 

  1. Buy local bee products. Support your local populations of bees (and beekeepers!) by buying their products – such as honey, preserves, beeswax candles, health and beauty products and beeswax polish. Local suppliers include Kingswinford-based Beez Neez Honey (www.beezneezhoney.com) (available at farmers' markets such as Kings Heath, Kings Norton, and Birmingham New Street).

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 11:02