What can you do to help bees and other pollinators?
1. Sign our petition for a National Bee Action Plan that will intervene across a range of sectors to save the British bee. We want David Cameron to publicly acknowledge the need for central Government to adopt and implement this Plan which will be inspired by the actions we take together.
2. Write to your MP to urge them to put pressure on the government to implement a National Bee Action Plan and encourage the local council to make your local area more bee friendly (eg bee friendly plants in parks, city centres and Cities in Bloom competitions).
3. Plant wildflowers and other pollinator-friendly plants in your garden, window boxes and balconies. Wildflowers are especially rich in the nutritious nectar that pollinators feed upon, but have suffered dramatic declines during the last century – since the 1930's, UK wildflower meadows have declined by a staggering 97%. This is one of the reasons why numbers of pollinating insects have fallen. As well as wildflowers, you can plant native species with easy-access single (not double) flower heads – think foxgloves, bluebells and viper’s bugloss – and avoid fussy hybrid plants like double-headed begonias, busy-lizzies and bedding geraniums. They may look pretty but they have little or no nectar or pollen for bees. Look for plants on the RHS ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ list of plants to grow by season.
4. Make your garden pollinator friendly – as well as planting the plants that pollinators need to survive, you can ensure your plants are well watered to enable them to produce plenty of nectar, provide smaller saucers of water for bees to drink, use chemical-free seeds (available by mail order from places like Garden Organic (based near Coventry), Laura's Organics, Habitat Aid), mow your lawn less often to allow dandelions and daisies to grow (which will also produce a greener, stronger lawn which requires less watering), and leave fallen leaves on the ground for caterpillars and moths to hide from predators in. Avoid using chemicals such as pesticides and insecticides, chemicals designed to kill insects - bees are insects! By not using these substances you will help other wildlife too, encouraging biodiversity in your garden. There are more natural ways of controlling 'pests' such as companion planting.
5. Help your local area become more bee friendly – Friends of the Earth local groups around the country are inviting people to see their local area afresh, through bees' eyes if you like, to map what's in the area that is good for bees and where there are areas for improvement. So get out on a bee walk! Ask your local park and council to plant wildflowers and other bee-friendly plants. Look out for more information coming soon on what BFOE are doing in our area and how you can get involved.
6. Look out for swarms – if you have a swarm of bees nesting in your house you can contact your local swarm collector through the British Beekeepers Association. You'll need to identify what kind of insect you have first as they will only collect honeybees. See here for more details.
7. Be a bee guardian – make or buy a bee hotel – provide habitat for wood-nesting and stem-nesting solitary bees such as mason bees and leafcutting bees. Encouraging bees into your garden will help bring it into bloom. See the Bee Guardian step-by-step guide. You can also buy them ready-made. You can get a 25% discount on a Crocus bee box through the Co-operative's Plan Bee campaign.
8. Become a beekeeper – The British Beekeepers' Association estimates that over 90 per cent of the UK's honeybee population is thanks to the efforts of 17,000 amateur beekeepers. Why not help boost the dwindling numbers and join them? You don't need a lot of space, you don't even need a garden – you can keep a bee hive on a balcony! See the Ecologist's guide to becoming an urban beekeeper.
9. Buy organic – insecticides, pesticides and insecticides are harmful chemicals for wildlife, particularly insects such as bees. Research has shown that pesticides, neonicotinoids in particular are extremely harmful to bees, interfering with their ability to navigate their way home after foraging trips and produce queens in their nests. By buying organic foods you avoid supporting the use of these harmful substances.
10. Buy local bee products – support your local populations of bees (and beekeepers!) by buying their products – such as honey, preserves, beeswax candles, health and beauty products and beeswax polish. Local suppliers include Kingswinford-based Beez Neez Honey (available at Kings Heath and Kings Norton farmers markets)