SAVING THE BUMBLEBEE
There are more than 20 different types of bumblebee in Britain. They are fairly placid around people and unlikely to sting you unless you rally annoy them. Their stings leave no venom, nor are arguably less painful than venomous bee stings.
Like the rest of the bee population, these small furry creatures are under threat. They are vital to crop production, but not enough is being done to protect them – two species of bumblebee have become extinct in recent years and others are in rapid decline.
One bumblebee does 50 times the work of a honeybee, so their decline presents a real threat to our food supply. Government solutions include wild flower meadows, and areas set aside for conservation, but it’s a political hotbed and, at present, the bee population is still in decline overall. Recently, a pesticide thought to harm bees has been banned by the EU. It remains to be seen what effect this will have on the bee population.
The variety of flora in the UK has declined due to intensive farming. This is partly to blame for the decline of the bee population, so gardeners can do their bit by growing bee-friendly plants that provide a valuable source of food (nectar) for these threatened species, for bumblebees to thrive, the local landscape needs to offer food from a variety of plants all year round. Unlike honey bees, bumblebees don’t store much food for the winter.
Every year 10,000 colonies of bumblebees are imported to not idle in polytunnels in the UK because our native species are in decline. The population is threatening, so gardeners can help by reducing pesticide use where possible. With a little knowledge and the right loving attention, our gardens can be a haven for bumblebees of food and tranquillity.
WHAT SHOULD GARDENERS PLANT TO HELP BEES?
Diane said: “Honeybees have short tongues, so simple, open Dowers with nectaries that honeybees can reach are the plants to go for. Have a think about what you could plant that flowers during late autumn, winter, and early spring as these are the times when there isn’t much pollen around. Honeybees don’t hibernate. They cluster together to keep the queen warm and alive and they will fly on warm winter days.”
“Winter-flowering cheery, mahonia, snowdrops and crocus along with hazel would be good plants for bees. I have been amazed at how popular my golden marjoram and thyme have been to all sorts of bees and pollinators so get those herbs in your kitchen garden and the bees will be around to pollinate the vegetables as well.”
Neil added: “The best flowers for bees are single, simple, open flowers allowing easy use of the pollen – are blousy, showy blooms used by ’t. I’d advocate sedum in the autumn, lavender during the summertime months, and perennials including crocuses and snowdrops in the winter and springtime. Annuals such as calendulas, tagetes, borage and annual herbs are also beneficial.”