Yesterday, a neighbour phoned, concerned that he had not seen any honey bees in his garden. I had to explain about my earlier bee murdering disaster and my hopes of getting a new colony. Somehow I don't think he was mollified. Apparently he is worried about his damson crop...
So what can people do to help the honey bee? The British Bee Keeping Association has a list of 10 things the general public can do.
1. Write to your MP or MEP to lobby for more funds for bee research. We really do not understand enough about bees and what makes them ill.
2. Plant bee friendly plants. This is important. Grass and evergreens are not bee friendly. Certain repeat flowering plants are not bee friendly. The BBKA does have a list on its website but flowers like foxgloves, herbs including mint and thyme, fuchsia, asters, sunflowers, daisies, hollyhocks and delphiniums are all loved by bees. In many ways with the problems of agricultural pesticides, gardens area haven for bees.
3. Join your local beekeeping association. They do run courses for beginners. They are friendly and welcome new people.
4. Find space for beehives. Even if you do not want to look after bees yourself, you might be able to have space for a hive. Some beekeepers need sites. The benefit for you is well pollinated crops and perhaps several jars of honey. Sited right, a beehive does not bother its neighbours. Contact your local beekeeping association.
5. Buy local honey. Local honey has lots of good properties including not being ultra heat treated so it is helpful for colds and allergies. If you are not sure where you can buy local honey, contact your local beekeeping association. Local honey tastes far richer than the mass produced stuff you buy at the supermarket.
6. Do not keep unwashed honey jars outside the backdoor. First of all it attracts wasps but more importantly, foreign honey can contain bacteria and spores that may be harmful to your local bees. The bees as well as the wasps will try to eat the remaining honey.
7. When encountering bees, be bee friendly. Do not flap your hands or run. Stay calm. Walk slowly away and go into the shade of a tree or shed. They sting because they are frightened for the hive.
8. Protect swarms. Call your local council to get the number of someone to deal with them. swarms are important. Generally they are not aggressive as they have fed on lots of honey. But if you disturb -- say spray them with water they get irritated. So leave them alone and call an expert.
9. Encourage your local authority to plant bee friendly plants. Parks, verges and other public areas can be a real haven for bees. Wildflowers such as rosebay willowherb can provide lots of honey. Evergreen plants and grass can't.
10. Learn more about bees. Contact your local beekeeping association. There are beekeepers ready and willing to talk to all ages and manner of groups. Generally they have an observation hive for schoolchildren.
The loss of bees is a very real problem but little things can help to make a difference.