The humble little bee is the very worthy inspiration for my brand. They buzz around our gardens and fields from one plant to the next, and a lot of the time their hard work goes completely unnoticed. But do you know how important this creature is to our planet and our way of life, and the threats it’s facing?
WHY ARE BEES SO IMPORTANT?
It is estimated that one third of the food we consume each day relies on pollination mainly by bees – this not only includes fruits & vegetables, but also rape & flax seed that we use to make oil, crops that are fed to livestock who provide us with meat and dairy products to eat, and also the huge variety of manufactured foods that contain these ingredients.
Bees also play a significant role in pollinating non-edible crops such as cotton that we use for our clothing and homewares. They pollinate many trees and plants that are essential for filtering our air and providing habitats for our wildlife, as well as garden plants so we can enjoy beautiful blooms in our green spaces.
It is estimated that it would cost farmers in the UK an incredible £1.8 billion per year to manually pollinate their crops.
Sweeter than honey
Bees naturally produce by-products that we have been making use of for centuries; such as their sweet, sticky honey that we love to eat and use for its medicinal properties, and also beeswax which is used in cleaning products and the beauty industry.
WHAT THREATS ARE BEES FACING?
Sadly bees are in dramatic decline, and the reality of facing a life without bees is drawing closer and closer. Over the last decade, the population of bees in the UK has reduced by approximately one third.
A huge threat to our bees is the use of toxic pesticides. Some are so intensely toxic that they are not only effecting pests, they’re also harming other insects too, including bees. Neonicotinoids are particularly harmful as they are absorbed by the plant, and when a bee comes along to pollinate it ingests the pesticide which seriously damages its central nervous system.
Urban developments and invasive farming methods have meant that many of the areas bees once called home no longer exist. Wildflower meadows and other areas abundant in flowering plants are also in serious decline, meaning that bees lose an important food resource. Climate change too has disrupted nesting behaviour and has altered when flowers bloom, meaning food for the bees isn’t as readily available at the right times.
Non-native species, such as the Asian hornet, and an increase in parasites also pose a threat to bees as they eat or damage the bee meaning it can’t carry out its critical job.
WHAT IS HONEY LANE BAKERY DOING TO HELP?
To help create crucial food and habitats for our beloved bees to forage in, I include a packet of bee-friendly seeds with every order that leaves my studio. You are whole-heartedly encouraged to sow these in any outdoor space you have access to to help increase our bee populations.
Contributing to research
I make an annual donation to the British Beekeepers Association to support research and education around the global decline of bees.
Supporting local beekeepers
I support my local beekeepers and only use local honey in my bakes and for personal use.
Wherever possible I use environmentally friendly packaging that is produced using sustainable methods that do not destroy habitats for our planet’s wildlife.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
Luckily it’s not too late and there are things we can all do to support and increase our bee populations.
Create a bee-friendly garden
Bees love a bountiful garden to forage in. If you have some outdoor space, you can easily attract bees by planting native plants such as honeysuckle, wild roses, lavender, foxgloves, hollyhocks, clematis and hydrangeas, as well as fruit, vegetables and herbs. Try picking a range of flower shapes to suit different bee species, as their foraging methods and feeding techniques can vary.
Don’t forget to provide water for bees to take back to the hive.
You could also build or purchase a bee hotel which provide safe lodgings for wild bees to nest and hibernate in. It’s great fun watching the bees dart in and out during the spring and summer months. DIY build guides are widely available online.
Buy local honey
Not only does buying local honey support your local beekeepers and bee populations, and reduce food miles, the honey itself is less likely to have been heat-treated or filtered meaning that some of honey’s purported health-giving properties may remain intact.
Stop using pesticides
Organic farming can only grow in the UK if we continue to buy organic produce. Reducing the use of toxic pesticides by reducing our reliance on non-organic farming methods will mean a healthier environment for our bees. Try to buy organic produce where possible, especially if it is produced locally or in the UK.
You could also try eliminating the use of pesticides in your own garden. Some pests provide food for crucial pollinators, so leaving them to be controlled naturally is the best choice if you want to help save bees.
Become a beekeeper
At the moment we only produce around 15% of the honey that we consume here in the UK and it is estimated that we would need around 2.5 million hives in the UK to meet our current demand; an increase of over 2 million hives compared to the number now.
While this isn’t a venture that should be entered into lightly, if you have the time, space and patience it could be an incredibly rewarding experience. Hives are equally suited to rural and urban environments, and going on a beekeeping course to learn the basics about keeping a healthy hive is recommended. The British Beekeepers Association can provide more advice about getting started.
Help a bee in need
If you spot a lonesome bee that is still on the ground during the summer months, it would be easy to assume it’s dead or dying. However chances are it’s actually exhausted and just needs a little boost. You can help out a tired bee by mixing two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water, and placing it near the bee so it can help itself to this homemade energy drink.
The internet has an abundance of information on the plight of the bee and what is being done about it. I’ve provided some useful websites below if you’re interested in finding out more.
- The British Beekeepers Association is the leading organisation representing beekeepers within the UK. They support key education and research initiatives into bees.
- The Bumblebee Conservation Trust was founded in response to growing concerns about the ‘plight of the bumblebee’.
- The Bee Cause is a Friends of the Earth campaign.
- Pesticides Action Network UK has a series of factsheets on bees and pesticides.
- The Soil Association (the leading organic certification body for the UK) is running a Save the Honeybee campaign, calling for a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides.
- The Pollinator Partnership runs an information website for consumers, gardeners, land managers, educators, resource managers, producers, and farmers to help pollinators.
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”Albert Einstein