So, why bees?
Bumblebees play a vitally important role in our eco system. They are among the most loved and familiar of garden insects. Sadly these charismatic creatures are under threat and struggling to survive. In the modern world of paved gardens, intensive agriculture and changing climate, bees are finding themselves hungry and homeless. Through pollination, honey bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we take. However the perilous effects of pests and pesticides are ravaging bee colonies across the world.
Bees are in danger of disappearing from our environment. With the expansion of human development, wild bees have been losing their natural habitats as the land transitions into industrial agriculture. Additionally, warming climate conditions have caused major shifts in plant communities, and therefore the behavior and survival of bees.
In the last 80 years an astonishing 97% of Britain’s wildflower habitat has disappeared from the countryside. This has left bumblebees with little to feed on and led to their numbers declining. As well as loss of meadows, many hedgerows have been removed to create larger, more manageable fields – removing nesting and hibernating places for bumblebees.
Pollinators are also essential for the reproduction of many wild plants and play a key part in maintaining healthy and biodiverse ecosystems, including birds and mammals that rely on insects for food. Animals that perform pollinating duties, such as bats, are also at risk from numerous environmental pressures.
The dwindling population of wild bees and other pollinators is of great concern, both for nature conservation and for our ability to feed a growing human population.
The Impact of Bumblebee Decline
It is well-known that bumblebees are great pollinators, and therefore have a key role in producing much of the food that we eat. Through the pollination of many commercial crops such as tomatoes, peas, apples and strawberries, insects are estimated to contribute over £600 million per annum to the UK economy (2015). If bumblebee and other insect pollinator declines continue, the extremely high cost of pollinating these plants by other means could significantly increase the cost of fruit and vegetables (hand-pollinating British crops has been estimated to cost £1.8 billion annually).
Bumblebees also help pollinate many wildflowers, allowing them to reproduce. Without this pollination many of these plants would not produce seeds, resulting in declines in both abundance and distribution for a range of species. As these plants are often the basis of complex food chains, it is easy to imagine how other wildlife such as other insects, birds and mammals would all suffer if bees disappeared