The Great British Bees: How Hikers Can Help

By Sally Phillips

There are more than 250 species of bee in the UK. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimates that bees and other pollinators contribute around £600 million per year in added value to UK crops through pollination. While these numbers look healthy on the surface, bee populations remain on the decline. The reasons are many, but the reality is that if it continues, it can lead to an adverse effect on our countryside that will significantly change the areas we love to walk and hike in.

42.jpgWhile the problem has been highlighted at a government level, the question is: what can we as avid walkers and nature lovers do to help save our bees?

Avoid the wild side

Pollen-rich plants are essential in supporting pollinators like bees. The transfer of pollen in and between flowers and other plants leads to fertilisation, which ensures a plant will produce fruit and seeds. This ultimately creates more food for us in the long run. Wild flowers are rich in pollen, making them a crucial part of the pollination process. They also provide shelter and nesting sites to bees and other pollinators. As walkers, it's important that we avoid picking wild flowers, and that we stay on the designated paths and trails as much as possible to avoid damaging natural habitats and surrounding flora.

Create a hive

Bees like to seek shelter and safety above ground, usually in the hollows of old trees which are often dry and spacious. Without these options available, bee colonies cannot thrive.

554.jpgYou can help by making a beehive yourself and taking it along with you. Try to create something from wood or use an old box or bucket. Secure it safely in a tree well above the ground, close to a water source if you can. Bee colonies need space to grow, so make sure your hive is spacious and has plenty of holes for ventilation, but that it stays dry at the same time.

Avoid insect sprays and repellents

Bug sprays can contain chemicals that are dangerous to plants and bees. If the plants are infected, bees can get infected, which they then spread to other plants and animals. Try using alternatives like lemon eucalyptus oil or witch hazel, which have been known to keep mosquitoes and midges at bay.

Give them some energy

Bees are at their busiest when it’s warm. As a result, they can also be prone to dehydration and exhaustion. If you happen to come across a bee that is on the ground and looks like its dying, some water mixed with sugar can give it the boost it needs to get back to the job at hand, says the RSPB. Before setting out on your hike, pre-mix some sugar into a small container of water, just in case. As Val Osborne, Head of RSPB Wildlife Enquiries, says: “Busy as a bee is a true saying – bees are working to save the planet and they really do deserve our help.”

566.jpgWhile there is much more that local governments can be doing to save our bees, we can all make a difference in various parts our lives. Eliminating pesticides, monetary donations to projects and education are all valid contributors to ensure these hard-working creatures continue to pollinate our earth for thousands of years to come.

Originally published 19/02/19

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