The Humble Bumble

It’s the horticultural hot topic and quite rightly so; the decline of the honey bee should be everyone’s buzzness. Why the decline? Researchers don’t yet have all the answers.

Why should we care? Well if you swear by your family getting its five a day you’ll probably already know that farmers rely on bees to pollinate more than a 100 different fruit and vegetables. We exaggerate not.

Plus, we have learnt that the well loved and much celebrated insect contributes more annually to the British economy than the Royal family! As reported by the Telegraph last year from research carried out at Reading University, bees contribute £651 million to the UK economy every year, which is £150 million more than the Royal Family brings in through tourism. Its no wonder each hive has its own Monarch!

We most often think of bees and flowers as being inextricably linked; with British favourite’s like the sunflower or the much loved lavender, being named as the most “bee-friendly”. What you might not know is that bee’s will in fact mainly seek out trees, namely cherry, plum, alder, or the hazel as its best value for pollen and nectar gathering; so many wild bees’ nests are often found in hollowed-out trees in woodland.

Cunning, although when is Mother Nature ever stupid? Trees offer thousands of flowers all in one place, making the gathering of nectar and pollen a highly efficient and streamlined affair, keeping those bees busy, as we would expect! .

And as is the norm, Mother Nature also offers a fair trade swap in return; the bees pollinate the tree flowers.

Traditionally in Eastern Europe, bees were kept in “tree hives” that were closer to their natural way of living. Beekeeping as we know it today, with swarms kept in hives and managed by beekeepers is a relatively modern development.

What can we do?

As keen as we may be to help create a bee haven in our own gardens, bee hives, be they in the style of Winnie The Pooh or the more artisan tree hives, isn’t a practical or sustainable choice for many. Add to that the expense and tutelage required to set-up and manage a swarm of bees, some may be put off the idea, although the research from Reading Uni suggests it could in fact be a very profitable investment….This is a personal dream of Donny’s

However, given that British gardens collectively cover over one million acres throughout the UK we are better placed than we might have thought to make a difference to the plight and flight of the Humble bumble.

So, here are 3 simple steps that you and your family can do today to support the endangered Honey Bee

  • Plant bee friendly plants, choose a wide variety of daisy shaped plants, as these are easier for the bee to navigate, like asters or sunflowers, also try tall plants like hollyhocks, larkspur and foxgloves.
  • Avoid pesticides. Nearly all treatments that say ‘bug killers’ will also be harmful to the bumblebee too. Try bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/organic_companionplanting for suggestions on pesticide free alternatives.
  • Buy local honey, not only are you cutting down on the food miles, but you will be supporting a local bee keeper who is probably supporting the bee cause too. Let’s be honest is there anything better on toast?

Happy gardening. TBG.

Remember to tweet me your gardening questions using #AskTBG and we will get back to you with a reply as soon as is botanically possible. @thebathgardener