This week I will be discussing the humble bee. Here at Queen Mary we are already looking out for these helpful creatures. This very week, in Green Mary Week, the new allotments and sensory garden situated behind Beaumont Court is officially opening which will encourage bees and other such creatures on to campus to thrive in the city where else they would not. There are also rumours of a secret beehive on campus that is being used in a research project. These are all great ways to encourage bees to live near you but before I tell you about why and how you should help bees, let me dazzle you with a little bit of bee trivia.
There are over 20,000 bee species, 250 of which live in the UK. Of all these species in the UK, 24 are bumblebees, 225 are solitary bees and just one honeybee. Bees are either sociable or non sociable, which means they either live in a colony and work together to survive or live on their own. The honeybee is the best known social bee, a honey bee will take many roles in the hive in its short life and only collect pollen in its last few weeks.
Did you know?
- Bee sting venom can kill HIV and ease the pain of arthritis.
- Bees are one of the most hardworking creatures, they literally work themselves to death – if it were born in the warmer months the bee would probably not last more than six weeks.
- They can recognise human faces by piecing together parts, computer scientists are considering using this method to advance face recognition technologies.
- They can see all colours except red.
- Lastly, bees are the only animals proven to understand distances. If a bee were visiting ten flowers in a day, it would be able to work out the most convenient way, in terms of time and distance, to visit all flowers.
So why should we help bees?
Firstly their numbers are declining rapidly in the UK, due to pesticides and destruction of habitat. And yes, many people reading may see this as a good thing. They sting us and hover over our picnics. However, if we look at the bigger picture there are very real consequences to this. Around 70% of the worlds crops require pollination to survive, these crops are feeding 90% of the world. Honey bees alone are worth £20 billion to the food industry.
Bees also changed our British landscape. If we consider our countryside today we picture green rolling hills, which is pleasant, but due to the decline of bees and other pollinating insects fifty years ago we used to have fields of beautiful wild flowers.
If we zoom in again on our humble bee, we should simply help it because it is an incredibly intelligent and resourceful creature, and, by the way, only stings you if you provoke it first!
How can we bee kind to the bees?
- Around now bees are coming out of hibernation and as the following months start to warm up some bees can become exhausted. An exhausted bee will be on the floor on it’s own and if they are not helped they are often crushed. What you need to do is mix two tablespoons of white sugar with one of water and sit the bee on your spoon. It should drink the mixture and fly off fairly imminently. You can also put egg cups of this solution amongst your flower beds so they can access sugar before they become exhausted.
- For solitary bees you can make a bee post, some are being put up in the new University allotments. RSPB recommend cutting the top off a plastic bottle and filling it with thick straws or hollow bamboo shoots. Bees will be able to nest happily and safely in here when springs comes around.
- RSPB also recommend making ‘bug hotels’. You can do this by leaving rotting wood in your garden or fill a box with branches, pinecones and anything you can forage outside.
You can also donate or volunteer here…
Thank you for reading!