5 fascinating facts about bees | Marking World Bee Day
On the 20th of May, World Bee Day, thousands of women will head off to work as if it is any other day. The sky is blue, the sun is shining and the day has immense potential. They’ll head out into the world ready to make a difference for their community and for their ever-growing family. They flit among wildflowers and dance between the dandelions. In uniforms of striped jackets buzzing with work song, these hardworking women can be easily identified: They are the worker bees of the hive.
Wild pollinators are worth a staggering £700 million to UK agriculture and more than three quarters of the world’s food crops are part dependent on them: broccoli, apples and coffee to name a few. Sadly we’re seeing less and less of our favourite pollinators.
There is no single cause of the decline of the bee. For centuries, bees, plants and mankind cultivated a symbiotic relationship and lived peacefully together but in recent years a combination of bacterial diseases, loss of habitat, farming techniques and the impact of climate change has decimated bee populations along with many other natural pollinators.To make a difference we’re going to need to come together, just like the hive, to protect what really matters
This year, we’re working on our bee general knowledge and reading as much as we can. So, to mark World Bee Day on the 20th of May, we’re reading Planting for Honeybees: The Grower’s Guide to Creating a Buzz. As one of the great minds behind The Bermondsey Street Bees, author Sarah Wyndham Lewis uses her experience creating sustainable planting initiatives alongside local governments, charities and community groups to offer a wealth of knowledge and practical guidance on how you can make a difference. We loved learning about what makes bees such incredible pollinators and the beautifully illustrated seasonal guide.
Below, we’ve highlighted five fascinating facts that really got us buzzing.
1. Honeybees are actually all-weather workers
Not just visiting for the summer holidays, bees work hard all year round when the weather allows. Although we see a rise in honeybee sightings in early summer when dappled sunlight and dandelions meet, they will actually leave the hive at anything over 10 degrees celsius providing there’s a little bit of sunshine to warm them while they work. By planting bee-friendly plants for every season, bees don’t need to work so hard throughout the year and you’ll welcome friendly guests to your garden even in the off season.
2. Honeybees are loyal
They exhibit what’s known as ‘flower fidelity’ which means they will only visit one type of flower during an excursion, once their baskets are full they’ll head on back to HQ. Planting in swathes or ‘drifts’ of the same flower will make their day easier by putting it all in one flight path. It’s like picking up your coffee on the way to work. Imagine collecting the cup from one place, the coffee from another and the milk from down the road! Having everything all in one place means we all get to work on time with everything we need to start the day
3. Honeybees love to climb trees
Bees are natural tree dwellers and tend to get most nectar from trees rather than flowers. Think about it, a tree blooms thousands of blossoms in one place, so that’s an entire feast in just one tree! A single linden tree in flower provides the same amount of forage as almost an entire football pitch of wildflower meadow. They can also provide nesting material and natural habitats for other types of bees. Plant trees in your garden with bee-friendly treehouses or work with your government and community to protect the trees in your local green space for the good of all bee-kind.
4. Honeybees are culinary connoisseurs
Just like humans, bees do best on a varied diet of fresh, organic produce free of pesticides to build up natural resilience which protects them from disease. Choosing seeds, bulbs and potting composts from organic nurseries will make a healthy retreat for honeybees. They’re also willing to travel for a fine dining experience, often going up to three miles to find suitable flowers. Got a honey maker in your area? Ask their advice on what bees love to dine on so you can plant something in your garden to help. You could then pick up a jar of raw honey so local it could almost be from your own backyard.
5. Honeybees aren’t really into horticulture
Although we’re sure they’d never miss tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show, these little judges aren’t a fan of close cut green lawns and big blousy flowers. So sit back, relax and accept the award for the most bee-friendly garden instead. With short little tongues they prefer foraging among flowers they can reach easily like the open-petalled daisy over rainbows of cultivated blooms. And letting your lawn go encourages bee favourites like trefoil, clovers and dandelions to grow (all excellent early season nectar sources) as well as attract other natural pollinators to your haven.