I like the birds and the bees. No! This isn’t a euphemism for something else. I really do like birds and bees.
I’m an avid birdwatcher. I’m a licensed bird ringer for the British Trust for Ornithology. I was a professional wildlife tour leader for ten years. I also find bees awe inspiring. How they go about their business of making nature happen is truly wonderful.
I’ve written before about bees. Frankly, I don’t think too much could ever be written about them. So, it’s always timely to spread the word about what we can all do to help bees. And to remind us why our future is tied up with the fate of bees. In the book, ‘A World Without Bees’, Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum (Guardian Books, 2009, 3-4) estimate that about one-third of the average diet is pollinated by bees. They go on to state the bee’s importance in agriculture.
“In all, some 90 commercial crops worldwide owe their continued existence to the honeybee. That makes honeybee pollination worth more than an estimated $60 billion (£43 billion) a year, of which some $15 billion (£11 billion) is in the US alone, according to a study by Cornell University.”
Bees play a vital role in our world. I’m not sure we could survive without them. As you most likely know, bees are under threat and particularly with something called colony collapse disorder. Earlier this year I wrote about the United Nations Environment Programme and its warning that without profound changes to the way we manage the planet, we will see continued declines in bees and other pollinators that are so vital if we are to feed a growing human population.
I was reminded of the importance of bees the other Sunday when I was reading The Observer. In the newspaper’s “Your Green Questions Answered” column, Lucy Siegle wrote:
“If you have a garden, your responsibility lies in making it bee friendly. Set your lawn mower on a higher setting so it won’t cut down clover (bees love clover), plant native garden flowers and wildflowers rather than imported species that offer little nectar or pollen, and leave gardens ungroomed, with bits of rotting wood and mouse nests that may be used by nesting bees.”
I thought that this was such a practical and sensible piece of advice that I wanted to share it with you. She goes on to say that only one in six pots of honey eaten in the UK is from British bees. Buying local honey will help support our local beekeepers. Moreover, Lucy’s advice is also important to remember for our birds and other wildlife.
So, as we fight to rid the world of factory farming, let’s also make sure our gardens and the countryside are friendly to the wildlife, birds and bees we are lucky to have around us. It’s important to protect all of nature’s assets if we are to protect the future of our food; bees being a key player in how our food is produced. We lose them at our peril.