Be extra kind to bees this week, says Defra

16 July 2020 by Grace Coleman
blog author

Farmers, gardeners, land managers and people at home can help protect biodiversity during Bees’ Needs Week, an event coordinated by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Bees and other pollinators are vital for successful food production and agriculture, despite their size. They contribute the equivalent of more than £500 million a year to UK agriculture and food production, by improving crop quality and quantity – as well as supporting wider, natural ecosystems.

There are thousands of species of insect pollinators in the UK, including moths and butterflies, hoverflies and beetles, as well as honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees. But their populations are under threat from habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, invasive species, pests and disease and pesticide use.

Now in its fifth year, Bees’ Needs Week (running until 19th July) has highlighted what everyone can do in their gardens/window boxes to care for pollinators:

  • Grow more flowers, shrubs and trees

  • Let your garden grow wild

  • Cut your grass less often

  • Don’t disturb insect nest and hibernation spots

  • Think carefully about whether to use pesticides 

Defra is working with farmers, businesses and conservation organisations to provide pollinator habitat on farmland, urban areas and in gardens, via the National Pollinator Strategy. The strategy lays out a 10-year plan to help pollinating insects survive and thrive. 

Rebecca Pow, Defra minister for pollinators, said: “This year, we have seen an increased appreciation for nature in England in response to the coronavirus pandemic with the nation building back greener.

“Bees’ Needs Week is about celebrating the fact that everyone can get involved by leaving patches of garden to grow wild, growing more flowers, cutting grass less, not disturbing insect nests, and carefully considering how we use pesticides.

“Our ambitious Environment and Agriculture Bills will enable us to enhance and protect our precious natural environment and diverse ecosystems, improving habitats for pollinators, for years to come.”

Tony Juniper, Natural England chair, said: “Bees may be small, but they have a huge impact on how our world works. These wonderful insects are a kind of natural glue, holding the environment together by moving pollen between plants, enabling whole systems to be sustained and replenished. Without bees, we could not live.

“Although overall the status of pollinators has declined, the good news is that everyone can do something to help. Many of us have been more connected with nature during the pandemic lockdown and I very much hope that this newly-found reverence for our environment can be harnessed to ensure pollinators’ habitats, populations and products are protected for the future.”

According to Natural England’s ‘People and Nature Survey for England’, 60 per cent of adults in England said they had spent time outside in green and natural spaces in the previous two weeks. More people had been heading outside to connect with nature due to the government restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With this in mind, another way to support bees is by monitoring local bee and pollinator populations. By spending just 10 minutes in the sun, you could count insects for the UK’s Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS), a citizen science initiative, and get involved on social media using #beesneeds.

This week, Defra is teaming up with other organisations to encourage everyone to help where possible to help the bees to thrive.