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Brilliant Bees

Yesterday was World Bee Day so I thought it right that we pause for a moment to celebrate the brilliant bees in and around the village. With their black and gold stripes and familiar buzzing sound darting from flower to flower, bees are a common sight in our gardens and countryside. I've found photographing them a wonderful window into their busy and fascinating lives enabling me to appreciate the diversity of species living around the village and each has an elaborate life history, often closely intertwined with other bee species.

Bees also provide essential ecosystem services for us. It is staggering to think that 85-95% of our insect-pollinated crops rely on wild pollinators. This equates to £690 million worth of crops pollinated for free each year in the UK by bees as well as moths, butterflies, hoverflies, flies and beetles and it as been estimated that it would cost £1.8 billion annually to manually pollinate these crops.

However, habitat loss and fragmentation due to the intensification of agriculture, urbanisation, pesticide use along with climate change and disease has driven many species into decline. To give an example, 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost since 1930s. The Wildlife Trust states that "Three bumblebee species have become extinct in recent decades. The recent European Red List for Bees reports that almost one in ten species of wild bee face extinction, and over the past 50 years, half the bee, butterfly and moth species studied in the 2013 State of Nature Report have declined".

Here are a few simple changes we can make to help our bees and other pollinators:

  • Stop using pesticides which can harm many invertebrates and pollinators

  • Cut your grass less often to allow plants to flower

  • Grow more nectar-rich flowers

  • Join the Aldbourne Nature Reserve . This is an exciting new project run by Carbon Neutral Aldbourne which encourages local residents to dedicate some of their outside space as a wildlife-friendly habitat. Leaving patches to go wild lets wildflowers grow and provides great nesting and feeding sites.

I read somewhere that each bee requires approximately 1 square metre of wildflowers in order to survive. Let's all do our bit to help out our brilliant bees.

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