THERE may have been times in your life when you’ve wished a persistent bee would just buzz off.
But actually, the invertebrates are incredibly important part of our planet’s ecosystems, and – worryingly – they’re in decline.
Why are bees important?
Bees are important because of their superb pollination skills.
We need them to pollinate flowers and trees – that provide habitats for all kinds of animals -, as well as another fairly important resource… food.
Around 80% of all flowering plants are specialised to be pollinated by animals.
This is mostly insects, which includes bees.
We need them to pollinate flowers and trees that provide habitats for all kinds of animals[/caption]
Without pollination we’d be deprived of crucial sources of food, as it’s required for many fruits, vegetables and crops needed to feed livestock.
Bee populations have been declining internationally as a result of – among other factors – pollution, pesticide use, the loss of their habitats.
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Which bees pollinate?
According to Anne Rowberry, president of the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), though there are various species of bees that pollinate, solitary bees are the most important.
She said: “There are around 267 bees in the UK, 1 species of Honeybee and 25 Bumble bees, the remaining bees are solitary bees.
“The honeybee is an excellent and important pollinator because it lives in colonies and can easily be transported to crops needing pollination.
“The attractive bumblebees are also good pollinators having varying tongue length allowing access to the deeper tubular flowers, the
buff-tailed and white-tailed bumblebees have long tongues that reach into flowers such as foxglove and they all visit the array of herbs and wild flowers.”
However, despite bees’ reputation for being master pollinators, some species don’t have to collect pollen, and have their own sneaky way of getting other bees to rear their young.
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She said, “bees are not always the pollinators we think, there are 6 species of Cuckoo Bumble bees who have no need to collect pollen, the queen smells a true Bumble bee nest and sneaks into lay her eggs that are raised by the workers of the nest.
“The solitary bees also have a number of Cuckoo species.”
Anne says solitary bees with their superior numbers are the most important: “Solitary bees far outnumber the other species and are the most important species.
“They collect pollen on their abdomen and as they fly around small groups of flowers often shed some of the pollen they have collected.
“They will be seen on smaller flowers such as carrots and parsnips but all the species of bees love the herbs such as thyme, rosemary and marjoram and all the salvias.”
Which flowers do bees like?
If you’re looking to create a welcoming environment for bees in your garden, one of the best ways is to make sure you’ve got flowers they like, according to the Woodland Trust website.
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Therefore it’s a good idea to grow flowers from late winter to autumn, and all-year-round if you can, according to the Gardener’s World website.
Bees will favourable to a variety of flowering plants, including birds’s-foot trefoil, red clover, and foxglove.