Bees play an essential part in our ecosystem; they pollinate the plants that grow our food. Without the help of bees, farmers will have to use costly hand pollination techniques slowing production and costing over a billion pounds per year. To combat this, Friends of the Earth have launched ‘The Bee Cause' hoping to draw attention to the plight of bees before it is too late.
The state of the UK bee population makes for pretty depressing reading. Since 1985 we have lost half of our bees contained in managed hives. Wild bees are now almost extinct, and some species of bumblebee have died out completely.
These are worrying facts, not only for bee keepers and honey producers, but for the whole of the UK's agriculture industry. Bees are essential for pollination of plants and crops, including apples, strawberries which are so important to the UK food industry.
New research conducted at the University of Reading and backed by Friends of the Earth puts the value of honey bees to the UK at £1.8 billion, 20 percent higher than previous estimates. The figure derives from the potential cost of hand pollination of UK crops should bees die out completely.
This is not a complete fantasy. In Hanyuan County, China, pear trees have had to be pollinated by hand after local bee populations were destroyed by habitat loss linked to intensive agricultural practices.
In an attempt to increase awareness and lobby the government into helping protect bees, Friends of the Earth erected a temporary garden at The Stone Circle, just outside the National Theatre in London on Wednesday. The 150 square metre garden was filled with bee-friendly wild flowers, which were given away to passers-by to plant in their gardens to. The charity will also be giving away an additional 20,000 packets of wild seeds to help people create small scale bee-friendly habitats in their gardens.
Friends of the Earth are calling on the government to help turn the tide of population reduction by committing to a ‘British bee action plan'. The plan seeks to tackle the use of pesticides in farming as well as small scale town planning initiatives to help indigenous species such as bees, and other pollinators.
‘Unless we halt the decline in British bees our farmers will have to rely on hand-pollination, sending food prices rocketing,' says Paul de Zylva, Nature Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, ‘Bees are responsible for most of our favourite fruit and vegetables so as well as the huge blow to our economy, our diet would also suffer. David Cameron must make the changes needed now to give our bees a fighting chance and save Britain billions.'
TAKE ACTION: Sign Friends of the Earth 'Bee Cause Petition'
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