The bee story
The British bee
A small, bright and delightful pollinator. Buzzing tirelessly from plant to plant and travelling miles at a time in search of nectar and pollen.
Here in the UK, we have hundreds of different bee species. Most of them are honey bees and bumble bees. But there are many more kinds of species too...
Bees don't just make honey
Did you know that without bees, up to 1/3 of the food on your plate could disappear?
Insect pollination is needed for about 80% of UK food crops.
Bees are the most important of these pollinators, and help us produce foods like raspberries, apples, onions, chocolate and even tea!
Bees are vanishing
A startling number of bees have mysteriously vanished worldwide. In the UK, we've lost about 50% of the British bee population since the 1980s. The reasons for such drastic decline are interconnected. According to scientists, one major reason bees are dying is habitat loss.
Source: BBC Countryfile, The Food and Environment Research Agency.
Bees are expensive
Bees could be worth up to £400m to the UK economy, and pollinating without them could cost farmers up to £1.8 billion annually.
A big bee family
There are over 200 species of bees and 25 species of bumblebees in Britain – 6 are endangered and 3 extinct.
Reference: Buglife & RHS
Bees need your help, too.
UK bees are homeless and starving. You can help solve one of the biggest reasons for bee decline: habitat loss.
Planting pollen and nectar rich plants in your garden would help bees flourish by giving them a home. Why not start a Bee Café?
Our bee-friendly garden
At B&Q, we will help you create pollen and nectar rich habitats for hungry bees.
We’re also teaming up with Friends of the Earth to urge the UK government to take quick action in unravelling the great bee mystery.
And, we’ve banned certain pesticides that could harm bees from our shelves.
There's a lot you can do to help reverse the decline in bee population. The lovely thing about helping bees, is that you will actually see a speedy difference right at home in your garden.
Small garden? No problem. Recent science shows that bees search for quality over quantity of delicious plants to pollinate.
We can help you start:
- Plant bee friendly flowers. The RHS offers two plant lists to help gardeners find plants that will provide nectar and pollen for bees and many other types of pollinating insects:
HS Perfect for Pollinators: Wildflowers, Garden Plants.
- Our Verve range offers a great selection of bee-friendly flowers. Look out for this label:
- Start a Bee Café, and see the results in your garden! Take some proud photos and pin them to our Bee Café pinterest board.
- Sign up to the Friends of the Earth call for a National Bee Action Plan
- Find your local bee. Did you know that many regions of the UK have bee species local to them? Soon you'll be able to find out more about a type of bee living in your region, and identify them! A new Reading University report identifies 'iconic' bees for each UK region - some of which are very rare. Stay tuned on our Facebook page and for the new research commissioned by Friends of the Earth, soon to be released. Be ready to take photos and post your bees onto our Pinterest board.
- Have you heard of bee lines or bee worlds? Your area has one. Get involved.
- You can even read up on guerrilla gardening and get seed-bombing! Get some Seed Balls to start. (Pollinators will love you for it.)
- Discover the captivating way of the bee. Learn more.
Part of the science world is devoted to the study of bees and their clever and mysterious behaviours.
Even Winnie the Pooh was famously puzzled by them:
"Winnie the Pooh: Christopher Robin... I think the bees suspect something. Christopher Robin: Perhaps they think you're after their honey. Winnie the Pooh: Well, it may be that. You never can tell with bees."
Bees have had a lot of recent excitement for good reason - a startling number of them have mysteriously vanished worldwide. Since the 1980s, we’ve lost an estimated 50% of the bee population.
Habitat loss, diseases, and pesticides, have all been considered as culprits, but so far, research is inconclusive.
What we are certain of: bees are are in decline, and urgent action is needed to find out why.
What’s the buzz?
Scientists have been searching for the cause of this mysterious decline, and still don’t have a clear answer.
In the 60 years since Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne, the UK has lost 97% of its species-rich, natural grasslands.
This is one of the biggest contributors to the alarming decline of our bee populations, because they need a good mix of floral resource to thrive and nesting lands.
Source: Friends of the Earth, The Food and Environment Agency
Some studies claim that neonicotinoids have a toxic effect on bees but scientific proof of this is inconclusive.
On 29th April 2013, the European Commission voted in favour of a two-year continent-wide suspension of three types of neonicitinoid pesticides in certain crops.
In the meantime, hundreds of scientists are working on solving the great mystery of our dying bees, including at least a dozen projects in the UK.
Many conservation and environmental groups call for precaution despite a lack of sweeping evidence and demand a strict ban on the pesticides.
We still don’t know if pesticides have any effect on be health, but currently decisions are being made without the luxury of concrete proof.
What we’ve done
As the UK’s No1 garden centre, at B&Q we realise we have an impact, and strive to take responsibility for it.
We want to help UK gardeners, new and old, to sow lush flower havens for the UK’s bees.
We now offer a range of help and advice for planting bee friendly gardens – from how Start a Bee Café, to bee friendly flower types, to labeling our Verve bee friendly flowers in-store to help you maintain a safe environment for bees in your gardens.
We are also aware of concerns over the potential association of neonicitinoids with the decline in the bee population and we’ve started by taking products containing this chemical off of our shelves.
Teaming up with Friends of the Earth
Here at B&Q, we are supporting Friends of the Earth in calling for a National Bee Action Plan – hoping to make 2013 the year of the bee.
We are joining in Friends of the Earth's call for a National Bee Action Plan, which says:
A stakeholder group should be convened by the end of 2013 to draw-up a plan in-line with scientific evidence which:
- Ensures the way we farm our food and plan our towns and cities is good for bees
- Helps farmers, gardeners and park keepers to reduce use of chemicals that harm bees
- Protects Britain's wild and honey bee species and other pollinators
The government should commit to implementing the proposal put forward at the end of this process.
Download the Friends of the Earth Bee Saver Kit and get wildflower seeds, bee identification guides, and more for a small donation.
Start a bee café
One Planet Home is joining Start throughout May in their celebration of all things sustainable. We are devoting a whole day to helping you Start a Bee Café.Discover more
More tips from the Royal Horticultural Society:
- Avoid plants with double or multi-petaled flowers. Such flowers may lack nectar and pollen, or insects may have difficulty in gaining access.
- Never use pesticides on plants when they are in flower.
- Where appropriate, British wild flowers can be an attractive addition to planting schemes and may help support a wider range of pollinating insects.
- Observe the plants in your garden. If you know of plants with blooms that regularly attract insects, let the RHS know.
- Encourage bees by keeping honeybees yourself or allowing a beekeeper to place hives in your garden. Nest boxes containing cardboard tubes or hollow plant stems, or holes drilled in blocks of wood will provide nest sites for some species of solitary bees. Such nests are available from garden centres or you can make your own (holes/tubes should be in a mixture of sizes with a diameter of 2-8mm).
- Unlike humans, honeybees can see ultraviolet light and can detect patterns on petals invisible to us. The markings on the petals act as "landing strips” to guide bees to nectar-producing parts of the flower
- A "waggle dance", is performed on the combs in the hive to tell other bees how far and in which direction they need to fly to find the flowers.
- Britain has 25 species of bumblebees, of which about 11 commonly visit garden flowers.
- A honeybee hive can contain up to about 60,000 bees in mid summer and they can convert the nectar they collect into over 100 pounds of honey.
- There are about 260 species of solitary bee in Britain.
- Butterflies and moths, with their long tongues (proboscis), can reach nectar in flowers that is inaccessible to short-tongued insects.
- When foraging honeybees have located a good source of nectar or pollen, they can recruit other bees to visit the same flowers.
How bees work:
Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred from one flower to another, allowing flowers to become fertilised and able to produce seeds and fruits.
Pollen and nectar provide the complete diet for bees.
Flowers attract insects by providing them with two rich sources of food - nectar and pollen.
Nectar contains sugars and provides insects with an energy source, while pollen grains contain proteins and oils.
Apples, plums, pears, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, red currants, gooseberries and strawberries all rely on insects to bring about pollination. The same is true for some vegetables, such as broad bean, runner bean and plants in the marrow-pumpkin family.
Other insects, such as various flies and midges, beetles, wasps, thrips, bugs, butterflies and moths visit flowers to feed on pollen and nectar but may also have other dietary requirements.
In some plants, such as grasses and conifers, pollen is spread by the wind, but the majority of plants require insects and sometimes other animals to carry the pollen.
Source: RHS, YouTube