Creating a buzz about Britain’s Bees

In this series of blog posts Ellie Dewdney will be keeping you up to date with current issues that could affect Britain’s most special places and what the National Trust are doing to preserve these national treasures.

Many of us can hardly believe it’s already the middle of July and the height of our often all too brief British summer. Though this is usually a time for people to unwind and take some well-deserved time off, this is one of the busiest times of year for one of Britain’s most quintessential insects. The Honey Bee!

Honey Bee

Humans close relationship with the honey bee spans back millennia. And we’re sure lots of wildlife enthusiasts will be tuning into BBC Two’s ‘Hive Alive’ tonight to get a detailed insight into the secretive life of bees and the latest discoveries about these fascinating creatures.

Although the programme will showcase plenty of bees enjoying the stunning British countryside, we thought this was a good time to remind you that, currently, bees need a helping hand.

At the moment, the global bee population is experiencing a worrying decline. In the UK alone the number of bee colonies halved between 1985 and 2005 and UK numbers are still heading down. Figures suggest that numbers fell nearly 15% between April 2011 and April 2013.

This is bad news for everyone, not just those of us who have a sweet tooth and a soft spot for honey. Bees play such a crucial role as pollinators that scientists think losing them could cost in excess of £440m pounds a year.

We have been enjoying honey for more than 8,000 years!

We have been enjoying honey for more than 8,000 years!

Expert, Doctor Connolly, has even said “If bees were to die out, then our food security would be seriously compromised.”

Scientists still have yet to pinpoint the reason for this trend but changes in land use, the varroa mite (a parasite which spreads disease), poor summers and inbreeding may all be playing a part.

Varroa mites on pupae

Varroa mites on pupae

Unfortunately, man-made pesticides may also be causing problems. Pesticides are tested to make sure they are non-lethal to bees but there is growing concern they could be causing serious brain damage to the little critters. In response to this theory the Insect Pollinators Initiative have awarded 9 research projects £10m in funding to investigate.

Whatever the reason for the decline we need to take steps to save the bee’s now. At the National Trust we have already taken action by introducing 45 new honey bee colonies across our properties in 2010. And the rare red mason bees have just returned to our Swindon Headquarters after their health-check.

We know there are lots of people out there who are extremely fond of Britain’s bees and there are lots of easy things you can do to try and get the UK bee population back on track.

Here are 6 things you could consider doing:

  1. Stop using insecticides in your own garden.
  2. Plant bee-friendly plants at home.
  3. Support Local Beekeepers.
  4. Make you own ‘Wild Bee’ house.
  5. Sign Petitions banning pesticides.
  6. Encourage your local authority to do more to protect bees.

For more information and another way to help – buy our book ‘Save the Bees’. Your £15 will help us establish new bee colonies.

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One thought on “Creating a buzz about Britain’s Bees

  1. I have heard that rapeseed is one of the culprits causing the decline in the bee population. A bee keeper that I knew had hives for years until rape seed was grown on nearby fields, when according to him the bees then went mad.

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