Domesticated honey-bees are in decline due to disease, widespread use of pesticides and the disappearance of more than 90% of our wild-flower meadows, so it is vital that we look after our wild bee populations now more than ever. Bumblebees are active in colder weather and work longer hours than honeybees. In some situations, use of certain pesticides, such as neonicotinoids, may be affecting both bumblebees and honeybees.
Bumblebees are hard-working and versatile pollinators, and hence provide an important service to agriculture. They are also key to maintaining Britain’s biodiversity as so many wild plants depend upon them for pollination. Together with honeybees they pollinate many commercial crops, such as tomatoes, peas and apples, and can help to increase yields in self-fertile crops such as oilseed rape. Insect pollination is estimated to contribute over £400 million per annum to the UK economy and €14.2 billion annually to the EU economy.
The good news is that we can all play a part in helping to conserve bumblebees, starting with our own gardens.
Imagine if every garden, park and school grounds had bee-friendly flowers, and we grew wild flowers on our roundabouts and road verges; our towns and cities could become huge nature reserves for pollinators!
How bee friendly is your garden?
In order for your garden to be bee-friendly you must pledge to:
- Not use toxic insecticides or herbicides.
- Not use fertiliser on the lawn (to allow wild flowers to grow) and conserve bumblebee nests by only cutting either part or all of the lawn to no less than 15cm from the soil surface.
- Sow bee-friendly flowers, including wild flowers and plant fruit trees - down-load the full list of bee-friendly flowers and shrubs, here...
- Leave grassy tussocks, wood piles and some parts of the soil undisturbed to preserve nests and hibernating places for bumblebees and solitary bees.
- Let one or two of your brassica plants flower in the Spring.
Please put your bee-friendly garden on the map, by filling in your email address and post-code, here... (Unfortunately this link is not yet live so in the meantime, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add your garden to the list.)
There are 24 different species of bumblebee in the UK - can you recognise them? Do you know which of them are cuckoo bumblebees? Download the Bumblebee Conservation Trust's guide to garden bumblebees, here...