Our namesakes the Humble Bee.....and how we can help!!
We bees are doing our best to pollinate the enhancement of beBee, but what about our namesake the humble bee who is very much on the decline in areas all around the world, bees are a very important insect because they pollinate a third of everything that we eat that's roughly 84% of crops grown for human consumption, roughly 400 varieties of plants need bees and other pollinators to increase their yields and quality, which includes most fruit and veg, nuts, rapeseed and sunflowers that are turned into oil, theres also cocoa, coffee, and tea and not forgetting the crops that are grown as fodder for dairy cows and other livestock, it's not only food crops that rely on pollination cotton does as well, and our humble bee also plays a vital role in sustaining the planet's ecosystems.
Whilst foraging for food the bee is designed to pollinate...if you have ever watched a bee in a flower you may have noticed little balls of pollen on the back legs, these are collected in the bees pollen baskets and taken back to the hive to feed the young by which time the flower has been fertilised.
How do bees pollinate? very simply when the bees enter the flower they get covered in pollen from from the male part of the flower (the stamen) on the next flower the bee visits, the grains are deposited on the female part (the stigma) bees tend to visit the flowers of the same plant rather than buzzing from one plant to another, this allows the plant to have sex, when the pollen is on the stigma it moves down to the ovary where it fertilisers and forms a seed.
So what's happening? well most of the world's bees are solitary and many are adapted to pollinate one type of plant, their life cycle is synced to that particular plant so they can pollinate it and feed their young at the same time, an assessment was carried out last year by the International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN) it found that almost 1 in 10 of Europe's wild bee species many which are solitary bees face extinction due to intensive farming, use of pesticides and climate change.
In around 2006/7 Colony Collapse Disorder wiped out around a third of all honey bee colonies in the US, this disorder is still not fully understood, but its pretty much a combination of parasites, viruses, poor nutrition and pesticides, besides Hawaii some species of bees in the US have now been added to the Endangered Species LIst
In the UK honey bee winter losses have ranged from 10% to 30% since Annual Surveys Began around 8 years ago, inclement weather confines bees to the hive during spring and summer they then become weak and are easy prey for Varroa Mite which spread viruses that kill the host.
There we have a summary of the importance of bees and why the humble bee is on the decline, so how can we help these age old pollinators who have been around for millions of years....
Well the RHS has come up with some great ways through some free downloadable PDF information of what we can plant in our gardens or even planters and window boxes to help these little bees, all the plants listed provide nectar and pollen for our bees and many other pollinators.
The first one goes through the seasons and is packed with plants to help all our pollinators and is called Garden Plants just click on the link, (in fact you can click on any link highlighted for further information) the second one is called Wildflowers and again is packed with a very large variety of plants and grasses, and the third is called Plants of the World this is great as it covers the northern and southern hemispheres.
Sadly there you have it some tragic information about the plight of our humble bees, but some very good links for plants that will help not just our bees but all the other pollinating insects as well, this has been your resident horticulturist thanks for reading if you wish to comment you are more than welcome.
Picture Credit: aspcapro.org
Andrew Porter (Horticulturist) All Rights Reserved 2016