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How to bee friendly

There are more than 250 species of bees in the UK, including the honey bee that normally lives in hives managed by beekeepers.

Bees are pollinators and play a critical role in healthy ecosystems, so are essential for our food production. Pollinators are worth a staggering £690 million per annum to the UK economy, and more than three quarters of the world’s food crops are in part dependent on them. Yet, bee populations are suffering.

Here in the UK, habitat loss and fragmentation combined with climate change are having huge impacts on bee populations. In East Anglia – 17 species have gone regionally extinct and many others are at risk. Local biodiversity is being negatively affected by the changing climate, and bees are being badly hit.

There are big changes planned with the way agriculture and the environment are approached across the UK and we are working to ensure that these help us protect wildlife everywhere. Bold action to restore nature can help build a more resilient future for our pollinator populations, in the face of a changing climate. WWF is calling for a world-leading Environment Act, with legally binding targets for the restoration of nature.

So here are some tips on how to "bee friendly" to encourage bee populations thrive in the UK once again.

1. Grow your bee friendly garden

Plant a range of flowers in your garden so bees have access to nectar from March to October. Bees love traditional cottage garden flowers and native wildflowers, like primrose, buddleia, and marigolds. If you plan carefully you can have a range of flowers through the whole season. Incidentally, because of climate change and exotic plants in people’s gardens bees are beginning to be active in winter, so you could be helping them all year round!

If you have space, leave a section of the garden untended – as some bees love long grass, or making nests in compost heaps or under hedgerows. Bees love large drifts of the same flowers. And they look spectacular as well!

You can also buy (or easily build) an ‘insect hotel’ using hollow stems like bamboo, twigs and string – just tie together a length of these and put them in a hedge or bush, or hang somewhere sheltered to provide a home for bees and other insects.

2. Treat your buzzing friends to some sugar and let it be

A tired bee really does like a tiny hit of sugar (never honey!) Mix of two teaspoons of white granulated sugar with one teaspoon of water and put it on a plate or drip it on a flower, to revive a tired bee.

Make sure to always use white granulated sugar rather than other sugar. Sometimes you might see a bee lying on the ground and not moving, but it is probably just resting. So after you’ve given it some sugary water, just simply let it be(e).

3. Eat sustainable honey

Is honey good or bad for bees? When done right, bee farming can be beneficial for wild populations and still allow you to enjoy honey.

When choosing honey - try to go for something local, from individual beekeepers who practice sustainability. This way you know where your honey is coming from and can cut down on the carbon emissions used to ship honey to your local supermarket.

Harmful chemicals are often used in agriculture to get rid of pests in our environment. Bees can pick up these insecticides when they are pollinating and take them back to the hive. This causes declines in the bee populations and can even make it into the honey we eat! If you choose to buy organic honey you are making sure that bees are pollinating in pesticide free areas.

Finally - eat honey less often. Even if you do all of the above, cutting honey consumption will ultimately help bee populations the most. There’s no need to give it up completely, but just save it for an occasional treat!

4. Get involved in our campaigns

We are campaigning for UK Nature to become a priority for our government. This means restoring and preserving nature wherever we can.

As new Environmental policies are being negotiated, we will be pushing for specific measures to restore bee and other pollinators’ habitats. We want to give nature a voice.

The UK Government is currently making big decisions about how it will manage nature in England when we leave the EU and they are asking for your opinion.

Your voice is critical to tell them that we won't stand further decline in wildlife as we leave the EU.

As climate change is affecting us closer to home each year, bee populations are suffering in the UK. Take the bumble bee, a temperate creature, which is struggling to cope as our summers get hotter and longer. The IUCN European Red List of Threatened Species showed that as many as 24% of Europe’s bumblebee species are now threatened with extinction.

You can call on our government to take urgent action on the climate crisis by signing our climate petition or joining us at our mass lobby on 26th June.


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