What is special about the bee?
Happy World Bee Day! But what makes bees special enough to deserve a whole day dedicated to them?
Bees are a big deal in Slovenia which has one of the highest proportion of beekeepers in its population in the world. In Slovenia a beekeeper has the same status as a dairy farmer or arable (wheat and grain) farmer does in the UK. This makes sense as bees have the gift of producing delicious honey! Slovenia proposed World Bee Day to the UN in 2014 and only at the end of 2017 was it was unanimously approved by the UN General assembly that the 20th May each year would be World Bee Day. Bees also have another trick up their sleeve which is vital to life on planet Earth.
Below we give you a bit of background on why bees are so important, and little easy steps you can take to make a big difference to help bees flourish!
A great number of fruit and vegetable plants need to be pollinated to create seeds that can grow into new plants – think apples, peas, strawberries and beans to name a few. A lot of natural animal feedstock such as clover and alfalfa need pollinating to reproduce. In fact it is estimated by the Soil Association that 1 in 3 mouthfuls of the food we eat would not be available if it were not for pollination! Pollination occurs when pollen from one plant is transferred to another plant of the same species.
Natures way of pollination is a special cohort of insects and animals including butterflies, beetles bats and small mammals who visit plants and transfer the small grains of pollen from plant to plant. Bees are one of the most important pollinators on the planet! Bees are one of the few creatures who feed on pollen at every stage of their lifecycle. They have special hairs on their legs designed to attract pollen and as they fly from flower to flower some of the pollen drops off pollinating the flower as the bee collects more pollen for food. Bees also collect nectar from the flowers which is the raw material for making honey.
How can we all help look after bees?
In lots of places around the world bee populations are in decline. The main reasons for this are the use of pesticides in agriculture and gardens and the destruction of bees natural habitat. We can all take small steps to address both of these issues.
1. Stop using pesticides in your garden
A natural garden can be beautiful, and it also helps promote biodiversity which means many insects will benefit and make your garden their home. The more diverse the insect population in your garden, the more diverse the species of other birds and small mammals like hedgehogs will come to visit.
2. Buy organic where you can
Another great way to contribute to the reduction of pesticide use is to buy organic. This can be buying clothes that are made from organically sourced materials such as organic cotton or bamboo, or buying organically grown fruit and vegetables. Organic farming prohibits the use of chemical pesticides. This is great news for the environment, including bees. Studies have shown that organic farms have up to 75% more bees than conventional farms. This is due to not using pesticides and also the fact that organic farms tend to have more areas of naturally growing wild flowers around them which helps bee and other wildlife thrive.
3. Plant flowers
You don’t need a farm to help contribute to increasing the number of wildflowers. Whether you have a window box, a balcony or a garden, you can plant or pot flowers to help the bees. Lavender is ideal for this – it’s tough and easy to look after (Becky in our office assures me even I could grow it!) and bees love the flowers. Another good option is rosemary. Rosemary is another tough, easy growing flowering plant with the additional bonus of making a great addition to lots of recipes.
4. Buy seed paper greetings cards
If you would like to spread the word about the beauty and good wildflowers can do, why not look into plantable seed paper. This is an ideal finishing touch for a gift, an invitation or a thank you note. Your friends and family can then plant the seed paper and watch the flowers grow! So your gift lives on even after the card is finished with.
5. Leave your grass to grow
Some councils in the UK are now getting more bee friendly and leaving uncut sections of verges and central reservations to encourage wildflower growth, and you can do the same if you have lawns. Lots of people join together to take part in 'No mow May' where people avoid mowing the lawn to help the bees and other insects. All these small steps add up to a much friendlier environment for bees.
A bee visits between 50 and 100 flowers on one pollen and nectar collection trip. Even in big cities like London companies are installing wildflower gardens on their office roofs to encourage biodiversity, and some have even gone as far as installing beehives on them. We are lucky enough to work in the countryside and one of our neighbours actually has their own beehive!
6. Install a bee hotel
Bee hotels are the perfect resting place for tired bees. You can pick them up from local garden centres or online, or you can make your own! Bee hotels should be installed facing South and about one metre from the ground.
The world of bees and honey
It might just be me, but I have always been a bit puzzled by the phrase “make a beeline”. I don’t think I have seen many bees travel in straight lines and in fact according to research a bee must travel around 55,000 miles to collect enough nectar to make half a kilo of honey. The honeybee is the only insect in the world that produces food that is eaten by people.
The bee community is made up of one queen, drones and worker bees. It is the worker bees who collect the nectar and pollen from the flowers. They make up the majority of the numbers in the hive. Amazingly, this nectar is also the building block for the wax that makes up the hive where the honey is stored and the eggs are laid. The bees have a gland that produces wax. The wax is then chewed up by worker bees and used to form honeycomb. Bees must eat around 8 kg of honey to make 1 kg of wax.
Mead is the earliest known fermented drink and is made from honey. The Vikings coined the term “honeymoon” because they used to drink lots of mead for the first month of marriage! Honey has other uses apart from being turned into mead. It is said that if you eat honey made locally to you it ups your resistance to hay fever. Raw honey also contains a load of antioxidants. In some cases, honey contains as many antioxidants as fresh fruit and vegetables. Research is going into the wound healing properties of honey and other medicinal uses, and honey and lemon is still a very popular remedy for a sore throat.
Hopefully we have given you some interesting facts and info about how important bees are to the world and why they need helping and protecting. As well as some easy-to-do tips for you to become the bees knees (excuse the pun ;)) in doing your bit to help make their life easier.
And last but certainly not least! To celebrate bee day, make a bee line to the product you've been after on our website and you will receive a free seed bomb! Free bee bombs will be added to every order for this weekend only from Friday 20th May 2022 until midnight Sunday 22nd May 2022.