The UK’s Pollination Crisis…

It’s strange to think that a creature of approximately 18mm long can impact our lives so much; that it’s production contributes £400 million to the UK economy annually, whilst providing us with almost all of a food group. Furthermore, how these creatures have a unique form of communication that even the field of science cannot decipher.

The bee.

An often overlooked yet increasingly sought after insect, the bee needs to start being not only appreciated, but the centre of our conservation efforts. Hopefully I can clear the air on precisely why our 250 native species demand protection, and soon.

Though rarely welcome, swatted and feared bees are a part of our lives. The rumour that bees die once they sting is only true in the case of a honey bee, unable to pull its stinger out of the victim and the organs which follow. However it is obvious that this is about as insignificant of a threat as it gets. There are huge obstacles bees have to face to stay alive and producing. Threats that could cause the bee population to dwindle and therefore the loss in a 1/3 of the world’s food.

All three bee species: the bumblebee, the honeybee and the solitary bee face some form of endangerment. Mites and parasites are a big factor and in many wild areas, where bees fortunately are not mass produced, it is the biggest issue. Farmers have to conjure up methods to protection, far from easy. Not only this, the wildflowers that are essentially the ‘bee’s food’ have decreased by 97% in the countryside. With this figure it’s not hard to assume this has lead to a drop in the species’s population – the creatures which give so much to our economy and survival.

Nature is harsh but there is currently an array of obstacles the bee’s face, and by none other than human impact. The factors which we can help with and hopefully prevent. Climate change as with most animals continues to be a killer. Bees have to keep their hive at a constant 93 degrees, this is necessary for the correct production of honey and of course the Queen’s survival. Mass production by companies to obtain honey has taken it’s toll on the insects – being genetically modified to increase production and companies not even using bee nectar, has either harmed the bees or taken their uses away.

People usually find this very shocking, but then natural human instinct kicks in; how does a loss in bees directly affect us? As with all animals and the very foundation of conservation efforts, bees play a crucial part in the food chain: Birds, small mammals, reptiles and other insects (even bears) are predators to bees. As mentioned earlier bees pollinate 33% of the world’s food supply- if that isn’t essential I’m not entirely sure what to tell you. They give us strawberries, apples, berries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, alfalfa, and almonds. As well as this, honey can only be derived from bees and all products which use honey would suffer.

Efforts are always the key to conservation and hopefully it is evident the conservation needed here. Planting bee pollinating flowers in your garden and not angering bees is a must. For the more keen, organisations like BIBBA, Friends of the Bees, Bumblebee Conservation Trust all offer education and the opportunity to donate. I know I found it interesting just researching for this article what these charities can achieve.

Unfortunately these animals are in trouble, and the need for conservation calls…

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Rosie Alice

Environmental Studies student in Winchester, UK.

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