Saturday, 11 July 2009

The fate of bees

Apparently the UK currently has about 26 bumblebee species. Several species have become nationally extinct in the last 70 years. At the moment there are six species that are threatened with the same fate. Shrill Carder and Great Yellow bees are only surviving in small isolated habitat fragments. Bees are a very valuable creature. Without them entire sections of our agricultural industry would collapse. European bees are estimated to be worth €14.2 billion as farmland pollinators. The main problems that have caused declines in bee populations are the over use of pesticides that have reduced the number of wild flowers and the destruction of valuable habitat like hedgerows and hay meadows. It's estimated that we have destroyed 98% of the kind of habitat filled with the flowers bees love in the last 60 years. Our honey bees are also suffering from disease.
The future of our bees is mostly in the hands of our farmers and the agricultural industry. Hopefully they can find a balance in the way they farm and manage the land that allows our bees to recover. More hedgerows, wildflower meadows and the like would greatly help the situation. Bees work hard for us. As for the rest of us; just a few more wild flowers in our gardens could make all the difference.
On a brighter note, it has been noted that a species not native to the UK is starting to get a foothold here. This European bee is the first new species of bee to take up residence on our island in the last century and a half. The bee is called Bombus hypnorum, or tree bumblebee. It has a light brown thorax, black abdomen and a white tail. They make their homes in bird boxes or holes in trees. If you see one you could try to get a picture of it so that it can be positively identified by the experts. You can fill in a form at the bumble bee conservation site and email your picture at the same time.

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