What did you have for breakfast today? Jam on toast? Fresh fruit? Dried fruit in your muesli or some tomatoes with your fry-up? Maybe fruit juice or a coffee? All of these were pollinated by bees. It’s easy to think that bees just provide us with honey — but in fact they’re responsible for much of the food we eat.
Bees are crucial to our economy — without them it would cost UK farmers at least £1.8 billion a year to pollinate our crops.
Since 1900 the UK has lost twenty of its 260-plus species of bee, and a further thirty-five are considered under threat of extinction. None are protected by law. Across Europe nearly one in ten wild bee species face extinction.
Bees are facing numerous threats. Habitat loss is one of the biggest, which is why it’s more important than ever that we understand more about Britain’s many different bee species.
In my March Diary I featured Blooms for Bees, an innovative citizen science project to help bumblebees, and this month we are once again urging our readers to become citizen scientists to support bees, by taking part in this year’s Great British Bee Count (19th May–30th June).
Now in its fourth year, the Great British Bee Count (organised by Friends of the Earth, with support from Buglife and sponsorship from Waitrose) raises awareness of our under-threat bees and also encourages people to help bees — for example by creating bee-friendly spaces.
To take part in the Bee Count, members of the public can download a free, easy-to-use app. The bee sightings will be mapped on the Great British Bee Count website and shared on the National Biodiversity Network, where researchers, experts and local authorities can access the data.
Kate Bradbury, author of The Wildlife Gardener, says:
“Getting to know bees is one of the most rewarding experiences. From the big buzzy bumbles to red mason and leafcutter bees, to tiny things that you’d never see if you didn’t stop to look, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be discovered.”
Bee expert Professor Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex adds:
“Our wonderful wild British bees are under threat. But the good news is that everyone can help, by taking part in the Great British Bee Count — or by creating bee-friendly habitats. Plant some bee-friendly flowers or herbs in your garden, in a pot on your balcony or in a window box, or persuade your school to create a bee-friendly space — then sit back and enjoy the sight and sound of lovely buzzing bees.”