Friends of the Earth’s Great British Bee Count and things to do at home to help save the bees – Helen Tandy

I spend most of my weekends at fetes and festivals, campaigning to protect our bees and other pollinators.  Around 75% of the food we eat needs to be pollinated, and bees are major parts of this process. Bees also help keep our green spaces flourishing. That includes gardens, parks and streets, as well as uncultivated areas like woodland and grasslands. But since 1900 the UK has lost around 13 species of bee and a further 35 are considered under threat of extinction.

Pollination Facts

  • Most of our vitamins come from animal pollinated foods.
  • Pollination services would cost £630 million p.a. without the help of pollinators.
  • The industry would need 31,000 people to self pollinate crops in the UK earning the living wage to replace the work pollinators do for free.
  • Roughly half the world’s pollinators are managed honey bees.

Do I need to be scared of bees?

Bees rarely sting, unless they are provoked or feel threatened. Only females can sting, and would only do so if they felt it necessary to defend themselves or their colonies, honey combs (with honey bees) and nests. The first thing to remember is that prevention is better than cure: leave foraging bees, as well as hives and nests well alone and allow the bees to go about their business in peace.

What should local authorities do?

I attended the 3rd London Bee Summit on the 6 April. The Friends of the Earth and Buglife YouGov survey found a total of 81% of people polled thought councils should reduce grass-cutting in an effort to let more wildflowers grow to boost pollinator populations. Nearly two thirds (63%) of people said councils should be doing more to protect bees.

The survey also revealed 88% support councils reducing the use of bee-harming pesticides, while 92% support local authorities in planting more wildflowers and other bee-friendly plants in local parks and community spaces.

I am currently encouraging both Cheshire West and Chester Council as well as Flintshire Council to agree to a local pollination strategy. I was devastated today to return from a meeting to find two mini roundabouts near my house about that were covered in wildflowers yesterday have this morning been scalped to dry grass this morning.

The Water Tower Gardens

The overall Friends of the Earth group objective is to create more wildflower areas in Cheshire West & Chester and Flintshire. We need to increase the quantity of suitable pollen via nectar rich flowers. Different types of pollinators pollinate different flowers, therefore a range of flowers is needed. Pollinators also need a home depending on the insect group, bees and wasps need a suitable nest.

This garden forms part of the Roman walls in Chester and is under the care of Chester Council. We have so far completed our first planting day of wildflowers and other bee friendly plants. Our next event is in August at the same site.

RHS Top Ten Pollinator Friendly Plant List

Wild plants 

  • Achilleamillefolium (common yarrow)
     Centaurea scabiosa (greater knapweed)
    • Digitalis purpurea (common foxglove)
    • Eupatorium cannabinum (hemp agrimony)
     Lonicera periclymenum (common honeysuckle)
     Origanum vulgare (wild marjoram)
    • Thymus pulegioides (large thyme)
     Trifolium repens (white clover)
     Verbascum nigrum (dark mullein)
    • Viburnum opulus (guelder rose)

Garden plants 

  • Caryopteris × clandonensis (caryopteris)
    • Dianthus barbatus (sweet william)
     Hesperis matronalis (dame’s violet)
     Hyssopus officinalis (hyssop)
     Jasminum officinale (common jasmine)
     Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender)
     Lychnis coronaria (rose campion)
     Monarda didyma (bergamot or bee balm)
    • Verbena bonariensis (purple top)
     Weigela florida (weigela)

We’re now in the final week of the Great British Bee Count but it’s still not too late to get counting, People can  register for a free app on The Great British Bee Count website.