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Bees' Needs: food and a home

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Published on Jul 17, 2014

Insect pollinators matter. Through pollinating wild and garden plants they contribute to biodiversity. By pollinating crops they provide variety in our diets. They are valued by you, the public.

Further information is available on The Wildlife Trusts website: http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/Bees-needs

Transcript of video

Why do bees matter?

Most bees are pollinators. They eat pollen and nectar from flowers. When the pollen sticks to their bodies, it gets transferred between the flowers they visit. This fertilises the plants in the process, allowing them to reproduce, and grow fruits and seeds.

This process is called pollination. Insects, like bees, that transfer pollen between plants are known as pollinators.

There are at least 1500 species of insect pollinators in the UK. The honey bee lives in hives managed by beekeepers. Others, like many bumblebees, solitary bees, moths, butterflies and hoverflies are wild pollinators.

Some crops, like raspberries, apples and pears, particularly need insect pollination to produce good yields of high quality fruit. If pollinator populations decline, it is unlikely we will run out of food.

But pollinators do help provide variety in our diets. They're important for biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem, and they're valued by the public.

What's the problem with pollinators?

Evidence suggests that many species of pollinator may be in decline.

However, as we don't know exactly how many wild pollinators we have now, or how many we had in the past, it's difficult to be certain about the rate of potential changes to pollinator populations, or the causes of change.

For example, we do know that of the 26 bumblebee species in the UK, two have been declared extinct over the last century, and another six are now found in a much smaller area of the country. Recently however, one new species has arrived and another is being re-introduced.

We also know that although the total number of honey bee colonies has increased over the last few years, along with the number of beekeepers, beekeepers reported losing a third of their colonies over the winters of both 2007 and 2012. This is a greater loss than is usually expected. However, unlike wild pollinators, these managed honey bees can be replaced when colonies are lost.

Overall, our interpretation of the evidence is that wild bees and other pollinators are generally less abundant and widespread than they were in the 1950s.

What's causing the problem?

We know that pollinators face many threats, including habitat loss, disease, extreme weather, climate change and the use of some pesticides. While there are uncertainties about the impacts of these threats, overall the evidence suggests that it is probably the combination of these many threats that could be reducing populations of some species in the wild.

Training is already available to help beekeepers limit disease in managed hives.
But evidence suggests that loss of flower-rich habitat, linked to intensive agriculture, urbanisation and industrialisation, increases the impact of all other pressures.

Therefore, of all the threats facing wild bees and other pollinators, habitat change is probably the most significant.

Because bees need food and a home to survive.

What can we do?

Over the next few years, farmers, land managers, gardeners, conservationists, businesses, the Government and others will help implement a National Pollinator Strategy.
Our plan is to invest in research and monitoring, to find out which pollinator populations are changing, what is causing this change, and which interventions help most.

In the meantime, we are producing advice on how to create habitat for bees. Because fulfilling bees' needs with food and a home is likely to help all pollinators.

So whether you live in a town or the countryside, you can help create or expand habitat for pollinators by taking action now:

1. Grow more flowers, shrubs and trees that provide nectar and pollen as food for bees and other pollinators throughout the year. Such as crocuses and pussy willow for the spring, ox-eye daisies for the summer, hebes for the autumn, and cyclamen in winter.
2. Leave patches of land to grow wild and weedy, with plants like stinging nettles to provide food sources for caterpillars, and breeding places for butterflies and moths.
3. Cut grass less often, ideally removing the cuttings to let plants flower
4. Avoid disturbing or destroying nests or hibernating insects, in places like trees, dead wood or walls
5. Consider alternative to pesticides where pollinators are active or nesting, or where plants are in flower. If you do choose to use a pesticide, always follow the instructions on the label. However many people avoid chemicals entirely by physically removing pests or using barriers to deter them.

Pollinators help us and together, we can help them.

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