Why should we care about bees?

Originally written for Ethical Surrey

The end of June brought with it the end of this year’s Great British Bee Count. And what a tremendous count it was.

It is increasingly becoming common knowledge that bees are in dire need of our help, as their rapid decline also hinders our own survival as a species. With an increased usage of pesticides and other chemicals that are hugely damaging to the lives of bees, as well as other important insects, together with the tremendous effects of climate change, it is evident that there is a lot going against them.

What is the Great British Bee Count?

The Great British Bee Count is a six week-long annual event that encourages people from all over the UK to spend some time outdoors, looking at nature, and searching for bees. Run by environmental organisation Friends of the Earth, this year’s bee count, which finished just a few days ago, was met with huge success. A total of 16,282 individuals took part in counting bees this year, recording a staggering 320,337 bees all over the UK, from the Isles of Scilly to the Shetland Islands.

It is believed that there are currently 35 species of bee that are at risk of extinction in Britain, and the nationwide bee count allows bee specialists to evaluate whether this is still the case, and precisely which species of bee need our help the most.

For those who don’t know, the bee count involved using the concise photo gallery on the Bee Count app to identify which bees you have seen and tally those up, before sending the results on to Friends of the Earth along with the location that the bee was seen. Bees were counted in various spaces, including gardens, forests and parks. My personal bee count was a huge success, with a total of 41 bees found from 6 different species with just one walk around my garden.

Although these numbers may sound reasonably high, this only averages to 20 bees per person, only half the amount that I saw with one walk around my garden, during the height of summer when bee populations are at their most plentiful. I should also add that I live in an area away from big cities and built up areas, meaning that a higher bee population would be expected.

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So what’s so special about bees anyway, and why do we need them?

Did you know that around 75% of the food that we all eat needs to be pollinated, and bees are arguably the most efficient and hardest workers when it comes to pollination?

Since the beginning of the 1900s, the UK alone has lost 13 species of bee, with a further 35 currently considered to be under threat of extinction.

Climate change is a result of human impact and not taking as much care and consideration in our daily lives as we should. It is now our responsibility, as a species, to make sure that the animals that we share the planet with are best equipped to deal with the changing climate.

The Great British Bee Count is an incredible way of bringing people together to spend more time in nature, which is reflected in the fact that 97% of participants from last year’s count were inspired to help bees – in the garden, community or via social media.

If humans were to be entirely wiped out from planet Earth, it is believed that the world would eventually rejuvenate and become abundant with nature as it once was. However, if bees were to disappear from the planet, worldwide ecosystems would collapse.

violet carder bee profile (1 of 1)

How can you help?

Whilst we know a reasonable amount of information about bees, there is still a huge amount that we don’t know, which is merely heightened by bees changing their behaviour due to climate change. Bee experts are currently tallying up and analysing the results of the count to reveal which bee species are most endangered, and therefore what we can do to help them. After analysing if certain species are declining, they will then be able to study whether this is due to a lack of certain plants, a strong use of pesticides in the area where they normally occur, or changing temperatures.

Monitoring bee populations helps a huge variety of people, from the government and business owners to farmers and gardeners. And through the analysis of this gathered information, we will be able to determine how best to help bees thrive for the future.

Together with species population gathering, taking part in the annual bee count and being conscious of protecting bees sends a vital message to the government about how much we care about their survival. The awareness raised will help the government, as well as the public, to see how crucial a problem this is that urgently needs to be addressed.

Bees need the same things that we do to survive – a safe climate and clean air. So by each of us doing what we can to create the ideal environment to aid bee survival, we are also creating a better environment for ourselves. And if that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.

Here are 3 simple things that you can do today to help bees:

  • Don’t use pesticides that are harmful to bees
  • Plant flowers in your garden that bees love
  • If you see a bee that looks like it’s struggling, give it some sugary water

To learn more about how we can collectively reverse the bee decline, not just in the UK but worldwide, head to Friends of the Earth.

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