If you read my introduction blog you’ll know that throughout this week, running up to the general election, I am doing a blog a day about some key issues which affect wildlife in the UK and in some cases on a world wide scale. As I only have six days and I’m currently taking my GCSEs I’ve only been able to include six topics but of course there are many more. With these blogs I hope to show people the problems our wildlife faces, what we can do, who it affects, what will happen if we don’t address the problem, see if there’s been any mentions in party manifestos and much more! I’m also trying to exaggerate the fact that we should be voting for nature and the environment. Along with sending the posts to party leaders, MPs etc. It’s key that we address problems facing wildlife now so it’s not too late as when it is too late we’ll be in serious trouble.
After yesterday’s very exciting blog about the wildlife march in Witney, Oxfordshire, today’s is on the topic of bees. There’s no doubt you know that bees are very important. At this time of the year these charming little things are making their mark, they really are a pleasure to see. Who would of thought that something not even the size of a penny is so important and vital for our survival.
Why are bees important?
If you look at your plate of food on the dinner table, bees have played a key part. Whether it be pollinating the many vegetables and fruits we eat directly, or pollinating the food for animals that we then consume. That’s not all bees do for us though. Honey and wax are two other important products that come courtesy of bees. Other things include pollinating flowers in our gardens, parks etc and the flowers and fruits they pollinate are a food source for other species too.
Bees and the economy
Through the pollination of commercial crops, like strawberries, peas, apples and tomatoes, insects are estimated to contribute over £400 million a year in the UK and €14.2 billion in the EU.
Even if a crop is not directly pollinated by a bee, the crop still benefits indirectly from being in an environment in which honey bees are working, due to the increased biodiversity in the area which stimulates the crop.
Why bees need our help
Bumblebees are mainly under threat due to changes to the British countryside. Changes in agriculture techniques have meant that there are far fewer wild flowers in the landscape than there used to be, meaning that many of our bumblebee species struggle to survive. The dramatic decline in bee populations, and the recent extinction of two species in the UK, means that something needs to be done.
Causes of bee decline
The British countryside used to be something that was a lot more colourful. Before it was invaded by rolling green fields with crops and livestock the fields had much more wild flowers which supported a much greater diversity of wildlife.
As the population has grown and there has been greater demand for food production the traditional agriculture practises have been abandoned in favour of techniques which have increased productivity but reduced the amount of wild flowers and areas left for nature in the countryside. It has been estimated that we have lost 97% of our flower-rich grasslands since the 1930s. As bees rely upon these flowers for food, it’s not surprising that their numbers have declined so much!
The result of this has led to the extinction of two bee species in the UK since the start of the 21st century, these are the Cullem’s bumblebee and the Short-haired bumblebee. Both of these species are still found in Europe. Several other UK species are in trouble too, and they could become extinct within a short time. Two examples are the Great yellow bumblebee and the Shrill carder bee.
Impact of their decline
As I mentioned before, bumblebees are great pollinators and play a key role in producing much of the food that we eat. They also play a major role in our food economy, therefore if their decline increases then the cost of fruit and vegetables will increase significantly. Bees also help pollinate wild flowers, allowing them to reproduce. Without this pollination many of these flowers wouldn’t seed which would result in their decline. As well as this, as flowers are at the bottom of the food chain all the species above would suffer too.
As you can see bees are extremely important but are suffering too. This is very worrying for anyone and therefore something needs to be done. Fortunately there are fantastic charities which work hard to do this but what are the Government offering to do?
Well it was VERY worrying as the only manifesto which mentions bees is the Green Party one. They say how they’d help bees by reducing pesticides, ‘greening’ farming, improving planning guidance to preserve/create bee habitats, and make bees a priority species in biodiversity strategies.