I blogged recently about some of the benefits that the UK environment has experienced under EU membership but there was one noticeable absence from the list - bees. Bees are responsible for pollinating a large amount of the food crops that find their ways to our plates and whilst experts may argue over exactly how much, in a world which is struggling to feed large amounts of its people, I think it is fair to say we would be better off with bees than without them. In the UK there are over 250 species of bee but since 1900, 20 species have been lost and a further 35 are endangered.
|Image from Pixabay|
One of the greatest threats to bee populations are chemical sprays, notably neonicotinoid pesticides. The EU has recognised the danger these pesticides pose to bees and under current EU law their use is banned. EU laws have also helped protect vital habitats for bees and the plants they feed on and various Directives actively help preserve our native wildlife. Further EU help is outlined below.
|Infographic from EU page on Honey Bees|
In contrast, the UK Government has repeatedly opposed the neonicotinoid ban: in early June 2016 the Farming Minister, George Eustice, stated that once out of the EU Britain would take a more flexible approach to environmental protection and would ditch the Birds and Habitats Directives. The National Farmer's Union has asked for the ban to be lifted for use on certain plants but to date this has not been allowed.
In a post Brexit Britain and without the EU breathing down its neck will neonicotinoid sprays be allowed in the UK?
Will bees be more at risk after Brexit?
Unfortunately I cannot answer these questions and only time will tell if bee populations will be affected. However what I can say is that there are ways each and every one of us can help our local bee populations:
What can you do to help bees?
1. Contact your MP and lobby them to vote against legislation to allow bee-harming pesticides
2. Contact your Local Authority and ask them to plant more bee-friendly plants in their open spaces and to reduce their use of chemical sprays.
3. Work with wildlife charities protecting bee-friendly habitats.
4. Spread the knowledge about bees including how vital they are for food production and how susceptible they are to chemical sprays. You will find more information on the Pesticide Action Network website
5. Plant bee-attracting plants in your garden and garden organically.
6. Ask your garden centre o make sure the plants you buy aren't already treated with neonicotinoid sprays.
7. Buy locally produced honey that supports local bee keepers.
8. If you find a swarm leave it alone and contact a local bee keeper who can collect the swarm and relocate it to one of their own hives. Swarms of bees are actually docile but do still keep a safe distance and keep pets indoors. If no-one can collect the swarm it will generally leave on its own after 1-3 days.
9. Be a bee keeper - why not go on a course and learn to keep your own bees?
|Bee keeper checking a hive|
Have you any interesting bee stories to tell or are you a bee keeper with more tips on how we can all help bees?