Bees: the power of the pollinator

We all know that bees are incredibly important when it comes to the survival of our planet and the way in which we live. But, do you know why they’re so crucial?

Every bee counts

There are more than 20,000 known species of bee living on our planet, with approximately 270 of those having been recorded in the UK. It’s estimated that around a third of the food we eat comes from fruit, nut, and vegetable crops that have been pollinated by insects, such as bees. They are also responsible for pollinating almost 80% of Europe’s wildflowers.

Pollination: how do they do it?

Bees are perfectly equipped to help plants grow and produce food all through pollination. Many of them do this by gathering pollen in what’s known as their pollen sacs or baskets – an area of long hair on the insect’s back legs that, once the bee has mixed pollen grains with a little nectar, holds the pollen in place.

Over time, flowers have evolved to attract pollinators by releasing tempting smells as well as being brightly coloured and beautifully shaped. When pollinators, such as bees, flies, beetles, and butterflies, visit a flower, the pollen either sticks to their bodies or is placed in the pollen sacs, which will then be deposited in each of the flowers the insect visits next. Reproduction takes place when the grains of pollen from one flower meet the stigma (the top of the female section of a flower) of another.

Not just pollinators…

As well as pollinating our food crops, bees are the biggest producers of honey. They also help with plants, such as alfalfa and clover, which are used to feed animals. Bees help keep our planet colourful with beautiful wildflowers, which also provide other creatures with food and habitats.

How to help a struggling bumblebee

It’s a fairly common belief that if you find a bumblebee on the ground, you should rush to your baking cupboard for some sugar because they must be struggling. However, there are a couple of things you should consider first:

Is the bee genuinely struggling? Sometimes bees are just resting and this is especially true if you find them in early spring, as it could actually be the queen.
Can you see any bee-friendly flowers around? If you think they are in danger, the best thing to do is gently pick them up and place them onto a bee-friendly flower, such as foxglove, lavender, or dandelion.
Can’t find a suitable flower? This should be the last resort when it comes to struggling bumblebees. Mix white sugar with water (50:50 ratio) and offer it on a teaspoon or an upturned (clean) bottle cap to give the little creature a one-off energy boost and the carbohydrates it needs to fly away.
AVOID: Using brown sugar at all costs! This type of sugar is difficult for bees to digest and, since it contains pathogens, it can affect a bumblebee’s ability to produce honey.

The state of bees

It’s clear just how important bees are for our future. Sadly, since 1900, 13 species are no longer found in the UK with a further 35 species facing extinction. Their decline is thought to be a result of pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss.

So, let me leave you with some food for thought…

FACT: One out of every three mouthfuls of our food depends on pollinators.

Source: WWF

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