Just over a year ago I decided to get involved with Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause. I felt the need to become a part of something, and actively participate in trying to save and protect our environment. Saving our bees (and other pollinators) is vitally important.
Did you know that 1 in every 3 mouthfuls of food that we eat is the result of bee pollination? Think about it. Every time you put blueberries in your smoothie, munch on some almonds or enjoy some delicious broccoli, you are doing so thanks to the tireless efforts of the bees.
A world without them would be, well, catastrophic. You only have to look at the disappearance of honeybees in Sichuan, China to get a glimpse of the devastating social, economic and environmental costs. Arguably, the decline of the pollinators is an environmental catastrophe to rival climate change.
It is easy to overlook these tiny little creatures and underestimate the contribution they make but, the truth is, they are invaluable to this planet.
A multitude of factors are being blamed for the reduction in bee population: pesticides, viruses, parasites, monoculture farming, loss of habitat, climate change and electronic communication, amongst others. But, whatever the definitive cause (or causes), there are steps that we can take to help our little buzzy friends to flourish again.
Plant a wildflower garden
Last September, a group of family and friends along with myself created a wildflower garden, or Bee World, in one of our local parks. We removed the turf, sowed the seeds and waited patiently to see what happened in the spring. As you can see from the picture, the result was so worth it! Not only did it look beautiful, but it was positively buzzing with bees and other pollinators!
All this extra nectar helped to nourish the bees. Now, this September, we are going back to tend to the plot and make it ready for next spring.
With the summer flowers almost over, most pollination will soon cease for the autumn and winter. However, there are still bees that are active during this time and it is important that we help them survive the winter by putting bee friendly winter-flowering plants in our garden. Check out this list from Gardener’s World.com, and hit your local flower nursery to buy some.
Even if you live in an urban area, that’s OK! In fact, a recent study by the University of Bristol revealed that bees are actually doing better in urban and suburban areas because of the variety of food sources in gardens compared to the predominantly monoculture crops on farms. So, whether you only have a small garden or just some window boxes, pack them with bee friendly flowers.
Support organic farming
Monoculture farming and the loss of wildflower meadows has had a detrimental impact upon the bees, but pesticides are the real villain in this story. You may have heard of neonicotinoids recently on the news. Quite a tongue twister, neonicotinoids are a class of neuro-active insecticides designed to kill pests by affecting the nervous system, leading to paralysis and death. They have been held under an EU-wide ban due to the significant harm they cause to bees. This year, however, the UK government has agreed for neonicotinoids to be brought back into use in some areas. It is a massively controversial issue, with chemical giants like Bayer and Syngenta pushing for their products to be allowed, and environmental groups fighting to keep the chemicals off our food and soil, and off our bees.
The truth of the matter is that we need to stop putting monetary profits ahead of protecting our environment. Pesticides of any description are not good for you, me, the bees or the soil. By purchasing organic as much as possible, you are supporting organic farmers and helping to protect the land, the plants and the bees. We are not the only beings living on this planet, so spraying the land with harmful synthetic chemicals to suit our needs at the expense of other species seems very wrong (and short-sighted!) to me.
As a community of ethically and environmentally minded people, we have the passion to make change happen! We can start to turn things around for the bees (and, ultimately, for us). If we each do our little bit, we are taking a massive step towards bringing our planet back into balance.
If you would like to learn more about ways to protect the bees – appealing to the government and local councils, starting a public Bee World, or turning your own garden into a bee haven – I think Friends of the Earth is a good place to start. Find information on their Bee Cause here.
I’d like to leave you with a little quote from Joni Mitchell that, whilst written in the late 1960s, is still completely relevant today:
“Hey farmer, farmer
Put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples
But LEAVE me the birds and the bees
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.” – Big Yellow Taxi
Let’s learn from past mistakes and put planet before profit.