Bees – Don’t buzz off

Over the last 25 years we have seen a global decline in bees, with a 50% reduction in the UK and USA alone. Not only are bees good for the garden but it is now well established that bees are very important in the production of crops for worldwide food supply. With the increasing die-off, concern has grown about the cause of this decline.

Since the first natural study conducted in 2012, a number of reports including those from Havard and the US Department of Agriculture have linked the population decrease with the use of certain insecticides. While these insecticides, known as neonicotinoids, increase the yield of many crops they also make bees and other pollinators more susceptible to pests or disease, or outright kill them.

Studies have shown that the insecticide can damage individual navigation, learning, lifespan and fertility. Research has also shown exposed bumblebee colonies to grow more slowly and produce fewer queens.

Last year the European Union banned 3 of the most widely used neonicotinoids but they are still in use in the USA. Each winter America experiences a 20-35% loss in hive honeybees, which is too high to ensure the bees’ long term survival. Last week President Obama charged a new task force to work on a strategy to reduce the loss of bees and other pollinators. This included research not only into insecticides but other stressors such as nutrients loss, parasites and loss of habitat. While annual fluctuations in population have demonstrated the complexity of the decline, it has been said that Obama should have done more and followed the EU’s example banning the use of neonicotinoids.

No matter the cause, the protection and conservation of bees is more important than ever. If you, like Andy here, find bees have settled in your garden consider yourself lucky! The bees will service your garden pollinating and facilitating the growth of new flowers and fruits.

While it is generally accepted that wasp nests need to be removed, bees are much more docile and can happily live in your garden. Bumblebee nests, usually containing hundreds of more plump bees, can be left until the cooler days of autumn when the bees will die out and the queen bee will leave the nest to hibernate and not return. However, if you find a honeybee hive, containing thousands of bees, it is possible for them to be removed and placed with bee keepers.

If you are looking to encourage bees into your garden there are a number of plant and tree species to both use and avoid. As you set to work on your garden over the summer weekends, think about how you can make your garden more bee-friendly.
For more information on insecticides and the bee decline follow the links below:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jun/20/bees-die-off-mystery-white-house-plan-save

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/mar/29/crop-pesticides-honeybee-decline?guni=Article:in%20body%20link

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/10921153/Pesticides-pose-serious-risk-to-wildlife.html

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/news/2013/12/01/uk-environmental-organisations-urge-government-enforce-bee-harming-pesticide-bans

 

If you want to learn more on how to garden for bees follow the links below:

http://www.bbka.org.uk/learn/gardening_for_bees

http://www.bbka.org.uk/local/newcastle/facts/bees-in-your-garden.shtml

http://bumblebeeconservation.org/get-involved/gardening-for-bees/

Or research Wildlife Trust Gardening for Bees classes near you.

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Abi Gardner

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