We have a lot to thank bees for: one third of all food eaten by humans involves pollination by bees, honey is an important product in medicine and the economic value of pollination has been estimated at £116 billion globally per year, meaning that if bees were to go extinct it would cost a whole lot of money for humans to replicate their invaluable role.
Despite their importance, bees are under threat from modern day intensive farming, climate change, pesticides, deforestation and disease. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a major threat to commercial beekeepers. The cause of CCD is yet unknown but could be a result of all of these threats combined. CCD involves worker bees disappearing from the hive, leaving the queen and larvae behind. In 2016 beekeepers lost 44% of their colonies through CCD and it is estimated that honey bees will disappear by 2035 if CCD continues at this rate.
While extremely important, bees are also fascinating. There are over 20,000 species of bee, the most common type kept by commercial bee keepers is the honey bee. Beekeeping allows an insight into the amazing world of these tiny, but fundamentally important, creatures. If you get the chance, go along to a beekeeping session in your local area and take a look inside a hive.
Even without being hands on there are plenty of ways you can help to save our honey-making friends. If you have access to a garden or allotment plant bee friendly plants such as lavender and rhododendron. When buying honey, make sure it’s from local, sustainable sources to help support ethical beekeeping. In the summer months when bees are out foraging keep an eye out for exhausted bees. Make up a weak solution of sugar and water and leave it on a spoon next to the bee until it regains strength and hopefully flies away. Never give a bee honey and don’t leave sugar water mixtures in your garden as this can attract bees to drink it instead of pollinating flowers. If you’re out and about and see an exhausted bee on the pavement pick it up gently on a leaf and leave it on a nearby flower to give it a better chance of survival.