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© 2017 Antara Retreat 

Herdade Das Sesmarias Dos Nobres -7570-003 Grandola, Portugal

Why we must save the Bees!

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Beekeeping is an ancient tradition, and honey bees have been kept in Europe for several millennia. Bees are critically important in the environment, sustaining biodiversity by providing essential pollination for a wide range of crops and wild plants. They contribute to human wealth and wellbeing directly through the production of honey and other food and feed supplies such as: pollen, wax for food processing, propolis in food technology, and royal jelly as a dietary supplement and ingredient in food.

Yes! Bees are critically important for the environment and to the economy. It is estimated that pollinators, including honey bees, bumblebees and wild bees, contribute at least 22 billion EUR each year to the European agriculture industry. They ensure pollination for over 80% of crops and wild plants in Europe. Honey bees also provide honey and other apiculture products such as pollen, wax for food processing, propolis in food technology, and royal jelly used as a dietary supplement and as an ingredient in food.

For some time now, news about a severe loss of honey bees, bumblebees, wild bees and other pollinators has been concerning various professionals and the wider public alike. The European Commission has taken important steps to diagnose and prevent bees’ mortality, including actions on certain pesticides and a comprehensive study on honey bee colony mortality.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of food worldwide, 71 are pollinated by bees. The majority of crops grown in the European Union depend on insect pollination. Beyond the essential value of pollination to maintaining biodiversity, the global annual monetary value of pollination has been estimated at hundreds of billions of euros.

In view of the important ecological and economic value of bees, there is a need to monitor and maintain healthy bee stocks, not just locally or nationally, but globally.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, beekeepers have been reporting unusual weakening of bee numbers and colony losses, particularly in Western European countries including France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.

No single cause of declining bee numbers has been identified. However, several possible contributing factors have been suggested, acting in combination or separately. These include the effects of intensive agriculture and pesticide use, starvation and poor bee nutrition, viruses, attacks by pathogens and invasive species – such as the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor), the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina), and the small hive beetle Aethina tumida and environmental changes (e.g. habitat fragmentation and loss).

* Report edited by the EFSA ( European Food Safety Authority).

How to save Bees

Saving the bees is a big job, but taking action is easy! By starting in your own community, you can help make our world a healthier place for bees. Here are some things that you can do to save our bees:

Sponsor a Hive.

If you can’t start your own hive, or would like to help increase the number of hives around the world, why not help fund new hive installations? Honey With Hope is working to install stocked honeybee hives and solitary bee homes in our area.

By sponsoring a hive, you aren’t only helping to save the bees, but to improve communities benefits across the region. Beehives provide training and learning opportunities for both young and old, and the bees can help establish a better environment by pollinating plants and creating honey. Visit our “Sponsor a Hive” page for more on current Honey With Hope hives and information on how to get started as a sponsor.

Support your local beekeeper.

If you’re not quite ready for a hive of your own, you can help save the bees by supporting a beekeeper. These keepers work hard to nurture their bees and better the local community for bees and humans alike. The easiest way to do this is to buy locally-made honey and beeswax products. Many beekeepers use products from their hives to create soaps, lotions, and beeswax candles. Plus, local honey is not only delicious, it may be made by bees that visited plants in your own backyard! You can also contact your local beekeeping societies to see what kind of volunteer support they might need.

Start a honeybee hive.

A great way to save the bees is by providing them a place to live! You can directly impact the health of your local ecosystem by starting a honeybee hive. Having your own beehive can help you learn about bee biology, bee ecosystems, and improve the environment around you. Plus, you get the added benefits of bee products such as raw honey and beeswax, as well as the satisfaction and joy derived from working with a hive. Contact your local beekeeping club for more information. 

Protect bee habitat

One of the largest threats to bees is the lack of habitat due to urban sprawl. If you notice a lack of green space in your neighborhood, you can volunteer to plant a bee garden or create a habitat corridor with nectar-rich plants such as wildflowers. You don’t need a ton of space to help save the bees- gardens can be established in small spaces like balconies or street corners, and flowers can be planted along roadways and other public areas. You can also get involved with your local government to advocate sensible limits to development where you live.

Avoid harmful pesticides.

Synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides are harmful to bees. Using these pesticides in your garden can not only keep bees away, but also endanger their lives. If you must treat your garden, opt for organic pesticide options and spray at night when pollinators are least active. Or use beneficial insects such as praying mantises and ladybugs in your garden. Avoid chemicals belonging to the neonicotinoid family at all costs, as they are especially harmful to bees.

Plant a bee-friendly garden.

Flowers help feed bees and other valuable pollinators. Not only will you be helping save the bees by planting bee-friendly plants, but you’ll helping your garden as well. Some tips:

  • Avoid hybrid flowers, which may be sterile and have little or no nectar or pollen

  • Skip the double flowers, which lack pollen

  • Make sure you’ll have blooms for bees year round.

  • Plant flowers in patches - bees like to focus on one flower type at a time

  • Leave an undisturbed plot for ground-nesting bees.

 

Bees Need Trees.

Bees aren’t only just interested in perennials! In fact, did you know that bees get most of their nectar from trees? When a tree blooms, it provides bees with hundreds if not thousands of blossoms to feed from. 

Trees are not only a great food source for bees but they are also essential to a bees habitat. Tree leaves and resin provide nesting material for bees, while their natural wood cavities make excellent shelters. With deforestation and development on the rise, you can help bolster bee habitats by caring for trees and joining tree-planting parties in your area.

 

Create a Bee Bath.

A fun activity that can also help save the bees is creating a bee bath. Fill a shallow bird bath or a small dish or bowl with clean water, and arrange pebbles and stones inside so that they poke out of the water. Bees will land on the stones and pebbles to drink the water as they take a break from foraging and pollinating.