It may sound like a silly title for a day in the yearly calendar, but Don't Step On A Bee Day has a very serious and important message behind it. The aim of this day is, perhaps obviously, to protect the bees of the United Kingdom and raise awareness of their plight. Whilst you may be wondering why the humble bumble bee and all of its close relatives deserve a day of their own, you would be mistaken if you did not feel a slight element of panic when considering the predicament of these incredibly important insects.
You may feel that bees are an inconvenience when they are buzzing around your food at a picnic, and if you have ever had the misfortune to be stung by a bee you could be forgiven for taking a dislike to them. However the harsh reality is that if bees go out of existence, humans will likely follow not soon after.
Bees have been estimated to pollinate almost one-third of the world's crops, and without them doing this crucial job worldwide agriculture would simply come to a standstill. Plants would die, livestock would perish from a lack of food and the food chain that humans depend on so badly would be in disarray.
Bees are crucial to the survival of the world, and that is why Don’t Step On A Bee Day was created, to raise awareness of the issues facing these tiny miracle workers.
What Types Of Bee Are There In The UK?
Ask almost anyone about bees and the first image that would come into most people's heads would be off the large and often clumsy bumblebee floating through the air with its yellow and black striped torso and distinctive buzz. Did you know though that there actually around 250 different species of bees in the UK? There are 24 different types of bumblebee, 225 species of solitary bee and just one species of honey bee flying through the skies of the UK. Bees come in many different shapes and sizes, from the plump bumblebee through to the slim line honey bee, so please bear this in mind next time you go to swat one of these crucial creatures away as you may well do for their more aggressive cousin the wasp.
Why Are Bees Coming Under Threat?
Bees are facing danger from many different sources, but there are three in particular that are causing more issues than most. They are:
A Decrease In Pollen Rich Plants – With a lot more of the land in the UK being used for agricultural purposes now compared to even 30 years ago, there are a lot fewer pollen rich plants upon which the bees can feed. With products such as wheat, barley and grass for livestock grazing taking over vast swathes of the UK landscape, the bees are having to travel further and further afield to source the good quality pollen they need to survive.
Damage From Fertilisers And Chemicals - Like many animals the world over, bees are hugely affected by the different fertilisers and chemicals humans use to protect their crops from so called pests. Whilst these items may prevent crops from being destroyed by locusts or other bugs they are also poison to the bees that may land on them and this results in a huge number of deaths.
The Varroa Mite – This small but very deadly mite has wreaked havoc with honey bee numbers in particular since it was brought over from the Far East in attempts to improve honey yields. Once in the hive this mite feasts on the blood of the honey bee and can drastically weaken the bee in question. Once this happens the bee is no longer of any use to the colony and it is removed. It can take up to five years for the mites to make a noticeable dent in bee numbers in a hive, but once it gets to this stage there is no turning back for the bees and the colony will quickly die out.
What Can You Do To Help Bees?
If after reading this you are looking for ways to help protect the bees then there are certainly ways in which you can help. The top three are:
Don't Tread On A Bee! - This should really go without saying, but if you see a bee on the pavement or out in your garden struggling on the floor then please don't tread on it. Chances are high that the bee is simply resting after a relatively long flight and it will be more than happy to be on its way once it has regained some energy. To help the bee recover you can even leave a teaspoon of sugar water nearby as this acts as a fantastic bee fuel! If you have inquisitive pets that you are worried may get a little too close to the stinging end of a bee then just remove the insect from the floor and place them up on a leaf or somewhere out of the reach of Fido!
Plant Seed Balls - If you have access to a green space such as a garden then why not consider getting some seed balls of bee friendly plants and spreading them around? All you have to do is spray a few of these seed balls around your garden (even just in a flower pot on a windowsill if this is all you have) and you should soon see some positive results if you apply a little water and love to the plants.
Build A Hotel For The Bees - If you have the room in your garden you could also consider building a bee hotel. These structures (of which birdhouses make a great substitute if this is all you can find) act as a great place for tired bees to rest up on long journeys. Resting in a safe haven such as this gives the bee a much higher chance of making it home again, and therefore ensuring that bee numbers do not drop further.
We all hope that this piece has taught you a little more about the humble bee, and that it has inspired you care for them too. If this is the case then please share this blog with as many people as possible as without awareness bees will continue to die at an alarming rate and as we now know, without bees our own future does not bode well!
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