Bee Cause – How we can help the bees

April 15, 2012

Image courtesy of Friends of the Earth

Last week Friends of the Earth (UK) launched a campaign “Bee Cause”, calling on the British government to commit to a “bee action plan to save bees and save the country billions of pounds in the future.”

If you’ve been listening to the news over the past couple of years you’ll have no doubt heard that the decline in bee populations isn’t just a UK problem, it’s worldwide. A combination of issues from colony collapse disorder, parasites and shortages in habitats are being blamed but whatever the cause, it’s serious.

Bees aren’t just about honey – they help to pollinate strawberries, nuts, herbs, coffee and cotton to name just a fraction of items we use daily.

According to research released this *week it would cost the UK £1.8 billion every year to hand-pollinate crops without bees – 20% more than previously thought. That’s just one country, imagine that on a global basis. Finances apart, can you image a world without bees? I don’t even want to…

In recent years Britain has lost over half the honey bees kept in managed hives and wild honey bees are nearly extinct.  Solitary bees are declining in more than half the areas they’ve been studied and some species of bumblebee have been lost altogether. These figures are replicated around the world.

One reason for the bee decline is a shortage of natural habitats, so Friends of the Earth have outlined simple steps people can take in their gardens to help provide it:

  • Sow bee-friendly seeds and plant bee-friendly flowers in your garden such as mixed wildflowers packets, single-flowering roses, open and flat-headed flowers like verbena and yarrow and tubular-shaped flowers such as foxgloves.

    Image courtesy of Gardeners World

  • Create a place to nest for solitary bees by piling together hollow stems and creating a ‘bee hotel’.
  • Try to provide a small amount of rainwater in a shallow bird bath or tray which honeybees need to keep their hive at the right temperature.

So please “bee aware” and encourage these very special insects into your gardens – they really do need all the help we can give them.

Have you come across bees in trouble? Last year we spotted a large bumblebee covered in parasites and clearly in trouble. It was distressing to observe but by providing flowers with pollen that haven’t been sprayed with chemicals, perhaps it will help to keep the bees strong and more able for pests and diseases. It might be a small step, but it’s something.


* conducted by The University of Reading on behalf of Friends of the Earth (Reference: Breeze et al, 2012 – Chapter 4.) 


  • Reply La Vie en Rose April 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    It really is very worrying – this decline! thanks for reminding me – must build a bee hotel – love that idea! I planted alot of catmint last year – the bees love it! One of my baby’s favourite games is to go out in the garden looking for ‘buzzy bees and butterflies’ – it would be so sad if we couldn’t do that any more.


    • Reply greensideupveg April 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm

      I so agree Sharon and a bee hotel is on my to do list this year as well.

  • Reply Lily de Sylva April 15, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Great post Dee, the decline in bees is very worrying. I know a lot of beekeepers who’ve had major losses, but on the plus side there seem to be more and more people starting to keep hives. I just want to say, about the “bee hotels”…. they ARE superb for solitary bees, especially Bumblebees, as you said. They also make great hibernating spaces for other garden friends like ladybirds. However, a lot of companies seem to be selling them as a trendy garden item, and are giving the impression that they are for honeybees. So please, be aware, honey bees live in large colonies and need a big space… these bee hotels will not save them. if you’d like to help wild honeybee swarms find a home, consider setting up a horizontal top-bar hive in a quiet spot, and just leaving them at it…. search for “The Barefoot Beekeeper” for details.

    • Reply greensideupveg April 15, 2012 at 7:53 pm

      Thanks for clarifying that Lily, it’s a very good point and great link.


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