A concerted campaign on social media in the UK has called for help for bees. Across Europe bees are under threat from habitat loss, pesticides and associated dangers.
The weeklong #BeesNeeds campaign runs to Sunday (July 9-17) and has encouraged people in the UK to take five actions to help make the environment more friendly for bees, butterflies, moths and other insect pollinators. The event has been organized in partnership with organizations including Friends of the Earth, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.
People were encouraged to build a bee hotel to provide homes for some of the 260 species of solitary bee that nest in hollow plant stems, holes in cliffs and crumbling buildings. Kew Gardens went a step further by erecting artist Wolfgang Buttress' "The Hive" on its London site. It was originally created as the centerpiece of the UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo.
Kew receives 45 percent of its funding from the UK government, which was against an EU ban in 2013 on neonicotinoid pesticides shown to be harmful to bees. The UK also granted a temporary lifting of the ban in 2015.
Landing on the EC's 'Red List'
The European Commission environmental office maintains a European Red List to identify species that are threatened with extinction. A recent study on the status of all 1,965 bee species in Europe showed falling bee populations could be more widespread than previously thought. The EC reported that 9 percent of all bee species were threatened with extinction with a further 5 percent were deemed to be "near threatened."
Dangers to bees include habitat loss and fragmentation resulting from more intensive agriculture, extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers, urban development and climate change. Bees depend on their habitat for nutrition, and when an ecosystem decays, bee health declines in parallel, leaving bees more susceptible to other threats such as pesticides.
The Bees' Needs campaign has encouraged families, gardeners, farmers, developers and land owners to grow more flowers, shrubs and trees, let gardens grow wild, cut grass less often, allow insect nests and hibernation spots to be undisturbed and to think carefully about whether to use pesticides.
The UK government Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs website said a quarter of English adults had planted pollinator-friendly plants in their gardens or window boxes to encourage pollination. A fifth had let areas of their garden grow wild to give bees enough nectar and pollen.
The Royal Horticultural Society asked growers to take action to protect the 1,500 species of insects that pollinate plants in the UK, including bumblebees, honey bees, solitary bees, hoverflies, beetles, butterflies and moths. The insects are essential to maintain the variety of plants and wildlife and play a vital role in food production.
Other events included Bumblebee Conservation Trust's Bumblebee Safari in Somerset; the first Chester Bee Summit at Chester Zoo and the Wildlife Trusts' Butterfly Walk at Trench Wood in Worcestershire.
According to the European Commission, insect pollination is worth about 15 billion euros ($16.6 billion) a year to the EU with almost all of it carried out by bees. In parts of the world that have seen dramatic declines, manual pollination is imposing heavy additional costs to agriculture.
The Commission also admitted that its research is limited and the population trends of almost 80 percent of bees are unknown. The report underlined an urgent need for more research on the status and possible decline of bee populations
jm/msh (Reuters, AFP)