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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.

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 'bee'

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. Get to know your bees

Did you know there are around 200 species of solitary bees in the UK? Get to know the bees in your garden and in the green spaces around you by downloading our bee sheet - see how many you can spot! 

4. 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!

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