You may have heard that bee numbers in the UK are declining. Ahead of World Bee Day on the 20th May, we will be running a series of posts about why you should care, and different ways you can help, as well as sharing some fascinating facts about our fuzzy flying friends.
We need bees, both wild bees and managed hives for our plants to survive. Bees, along with other flying insects pollinate crops including many cereals, fruit and vegetables as well as wild flowers. Without bees, the UK would not be able to feed itself.
Bee numbers have been declining since the 1950s, and the reasons for this are complex. Changes in agricultural practices have contributed to a general decline in biodiversity in the UK, as hedgerows have been replaced by fencing and single-plant type farms. New housing and roads have replaced wildflower meadows, and many remaining green spaces are given over to grass. This loss of habitat for foraging and nesting has caused a steep decline in wild bee populations.
The use of pesticides in farming, and in parks and verges exacerbates this habitat loss, as the pesticides used kill bees directly. Pesticides spread far beyond the space they are originally applied, and contaminate the food chain for pollinators and the species of birds and small mammals who feed on them.
Climate change is also causing some difficulties for some wild bee populations, as flowering times change, and the popularity of managed lawns in gardens is another factor. All of these different factors work against our pollinators to make survival difficult.
But take heart! Over the next two weeks, we will outline different ways we can all help the bees including planting a bee-friendly garden or window box, supporting organic farmers, and working with Midlothian Council to create more pollinator-friendly public spaces. We will also have some interesting bee facts for you, and on World Bee Day, a friendly local beekeeper will be around to chat about the joys of farming bees!