There are few creatures as iconic as bees. Regarded as sacred and symbolic by cultures throughout our history, it is in the bee that we see a symbol of all that is pure and natural, as well as reflections of our own social constructs, from the committed worker to the dedicated drone and the majestic queen. The bee acts as a totem for humans – an emblematic depiction serving as a reminder of our ancestry and potential.
Beyond their symbolic value, bees provide a vital function to life on earth, pollinating around a third of all the fruit and vegetables we eat. If humans were to take up the job of pollinating our own crops it would cost the UK alone around £1.8bn a year.
So it should come as a grave concern that there has been an overall decline in both bumble bees and honey bees over the past 50 years. This was highlighted in an independent review of the evidence on the status and value of pollinators published by Defra in 2014 to support The National Pollinator Strategy: for bees and other pollinators in England.
There are a number of factors that experts believe are contributing to falling bee populations. They include habitat loss, climate change, pesticides including neonicotinoids, pests and disease and invasive species. Thankfully however there a number of small things that each person can do to help support bee populations.
- Honey bees need beekeepers to help them fight the pests and viruses that are now all too common in their hives.
- Encourage bumblebees by building bee homes or just set up some hollow canes to tempt them to come and build their nests.
- Planting bee-friendly flowers and plants mean the bees will be able to forage on a wider variety of flora.
- Whether it’s a bumblebee or a honeybee – be nice. Don’t swat or kill them and provide sugar water if they need a boost.
According to Albert Einstein, if bees disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live. Ironically the only species that could vanish from the planet and have zero negative effect upon nature would be humans.