We need bees. As a nation, we’re all guilty of taking them and other pollinators like butterflies and hoverflies for granted, but they’re actually essential for stable, healthy food supplies. They’re vital for maintaining the varied, colourful and nutritious diets we require to be healthy. But bees in the UK are dying. While the use of insecticides and pesticides is largely being blamed for the decline in our country’s bee population, there are a number of other factors to take into consideration as well. From the invasion of non-native bees, to widespread disease and the loss of entire colonies (Colony Collapse Disorder known as CCD), these essential insects are responsible for maintaining much of our environmental status quo, and their numbers are fading fast.
Here at BEE Midtown, we’re as passionate about our furry flying friends as you might expect. We’ve introduced a large number of bountiful bees which live on the rooftops of Midtown in sustainable hives built with extra insulation to keep the hives warm in winter. We run workshops to celebrate these incredible insects – allowing attendees to learn everything from how to extract honey to making honey beer, lip balm and more. And we share the products amongst the community, connecting our beekeepers to local cafes and shops.
Our dedication to bees comes not only as a result of our name, but as a demonstration of our ongoing commitment to improving the environment in our local area. But this is an ongoing battle, and one which needs dedication from the county as a whole. If you want to do your bit for these fascinating and fantastic creatures, here’s how you can help.
1. BEE friendly with your flowers
Bees are losing habitat all around the world due to intensive farming practices. Planting flowers in your garden, yard, or in a planter will help provide bees with things to forage. Bees love the flowers their foraging to be in one big clump, so plant like with like. In spring try lilacs, lavender, sage, and wisteria to be bee friendly. For the summer months, mint, tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, oregano, rosemary, poppies and honeysuckle will be the perfect addition to your garden. In the autumn, try fuschias, mint, bush sunflower, sage, verbena and toadflax.
2. Don’t BEE put off by weeds
Contrary to popular belief, weeds can actually be a beneficial addition to your garden. A non-weeded lawn can be a haven for honeybees (and other native pollinators too). Don’t be too overzealous with the weedkiller on the grassy areas of your garden. Wildflowers are some of the most important food sources for native bees, even though we might class many of them as weeds. If you decide you want to get rid of unwanted garden growth, wait ’til they’ve bloomed before pulling them out or cutting back.
3. Don’t BEE using pesticides and insecticides
Opt for organic alternatives to pesticides and insecticides on your flowers. The chemicals used in non-organic pesticides might make your garden look pristine and pretty, but can be devastating for the bee ecosystem. Chemical treatments are especially damaging if applied while the flowers are in bloom as they will make their way into the pollen and nectar and in turn be taken back to the bee hive. Not only is this damaging for bee colonies (it’s believed to be one of the major culprits of Colony Collapse Disorder) but these chemicals can also get into the honey, which means they can get into us. Check out this guide from gardening centre Notcutts for more info on how to make a wildlife friendly garden.
4. BEE generous with water
Not a lot of people realise that bees are often in need of water as much as they are in need of honey and nectar. If you’ve taken steps to make your garden more friendly to these essential insects and you’ve started to see more of them around, a nice basin of fresh water outside your home. A bird bath with a few stones in the water for the bees to climb on works well. Worker bees use water to control the humidity of the colony, not just the temperature, as well as to aid digestion, feed larvae and to cool themselves in the heat of the summer.
If you want to know more about how to take care of these invaluable critters, what we’re doing to help and how you can join the cause, why not come along to our BEE Garden Breakfast from 10.00 to 12.00 on Friday 27 April, 2018 at the newly opened Hive Cafe, Conway Hall. We’ll be joined by BEE expert, Caroline Birchall – Founder and CEO of the BEE Collective.