Thursday, 4 April 2013

Beauty & The Bee

Many of you may or may not be aware that the humble Honey Bee is in serious decline not only in Britain but across the entire world.

This is something I feel quite passionate about and
I have personally seen a big decline in the numbers of bees visiting my own garden over the last 10 years and the amount of dead bee's I've seen on the pavements and parks etc is quite alarming!
Well so what ? You may say,  why has that got to concern me?
 Well it should concern each and every human being on this planet ~ we all rely on bees one way or another whether we realise it or not.
It is estimated that a third of the worlds human food supply is dependant on insect pollination, and bees play a vitally important role in this as they are the main players when it comes to pollinating flowers.
There are other insects that will pollinate but bees have evolved to be the best at it.
Without pollination all those fruit and vegetables, that rely on it would simply not be able to produce their crop and the food supply we are so used to being able to buy in abundance would change dramatically.

Whether this be in our own vegetable patches or on a commercial scale.
Leaving us either without many of our favourites such as apples, or they would become very short in supply, as pollination would have to be done by human hand one flower at a time!
 I was shocked to read this is already happening in orchards in China and has been the case for the last 20 years due to a bee shortage, this cannot be a sustainable way to feed the entire worlds population if bees were to become extinct.
Bees are of course the only producers of honey, we all know and love either as a food source or in our beauty products.
How many of us use products containing honey, beeswax, royal jelly or propolis ? Even Bee Venom is being used now in some beauty products.
Manuka Honey is possibly the most famed,  for it's healing properties on acne/troubled skin.
All this would be a thing of the past if we don't do something about it now, while we still can.
So why exactly are they in decline?
1. Wide spread use of Neonicotinoid pesticides, both in agriculture and domestic gardens.
In commercial farming neonics are painted onto seeds before they are sown, this is then
 absorbed by the plant as it grows and contaminates the pollen and nectar that the bees come into contact with. 
The bees central nervous system is poisoned, if the dose is high enough they will die immediately. Small doses damage their homing abilities, rendering them unable to navigate their way back to the hive,  this mean less food returning back to the hive and ultimately the reduction in Queen Bee grubs, which are the next generation of bee colonies, and even the death of the hive altogether.
Domestic gardeners are also able to purchase neonics based pesticides, they are readily available from Garden Centres, the Soil Association has a list here.
2. Parasitic mites (Varroa Destructor) that suck the blood from the bees, their larvae and pupae. Uncontrolled these mites can cause the collapse and death of a infected colony in 2-3 years.
3. Disease ~ bacterial, fungal or viruses, the Varroa mites are also linked to the spread of viruses  more quickly within a colony.
These diseases weaken and reduce the lifespan of the adult honey bees, they die prematurely unable to survive the winter resulting in either the death of the 'hive' completely or it being so reduced in numbers it is no longer viable as a colony.
4. Environmental factors ~ a reduction in natural habitat and food supply, this is certainly more key for Bumble Bees and Solitary Bees as they forage mainly on wild flowers,  and use nests either in the soil or hollow stems of plants rather than hives.
There are many different proposed causes of the decline in bee populations, the issue is complex and I'm certainly no expert on this,  and the reasons above are just the main four that are thought to be behind it that I have briefly described in layman's terms!
What can we do about it?
Well the good news is each of us can play a small part in helping bees, and hopefully all our combined efforts will make a big difference to the survival of bees.
Everyone who has a garden, whether it be acres of land or a tiny window box can really make a difference.
Garden organically, I believe that there is no reason what so ever to be using pesticides in domestic gardens.  I have never used pesticides,  yes it takes time for the natural balance of bugs/predators to build up in your garden, but it will, encourage wild life into your garden, birds, frogs, and yes bugs, ladybirds and stag beetles are a gardeners best friend!
All these creatures will build up your gardens own little eco system and nature will control things herself, it won't be perfect but a nibbled leaf or daisies in the lawn are not the end of the world and I'm happy to give Mother Nature a hand, I pull up weeds, pick off slugs and snails myself and dispatch a few aphids with my fingers!
Grow bee friendly plants ~  I love Cottage Style gardening and that involves lots of flowers and bees love flowers,  it's a win win situation for everyone concerned!
Bee's love wild flowers, so if you have the room consider planting up a wild flower meadow, they are a rarity in the natural environment now but even a small area devoted to them will provide a excellent food source not only attracting bees but other insects and butterflies, and it will look pretty spectacular once in full bloom too!
I haven't the room for a wild flower meadow as my garden is only small but I still grow lots of plants that bees love!
The list of bee friendly plants is enormous and the RHS has a fairly comprehensive Pollinators Plant List found here
My favourites are listed below ~
Lavender so many different varieties to choose from ~ all loved by bees!
Alliums ~ bees smother these in May!
Giant Ornamental Chives ~ bees go mad for these!
Scabious ~ another bee magnet!
Buddleia ~ bee's and butterflies literally get 'drunk' on  this!
Foxgloves, Sea Thrift, Borage, Echium, Vebrena, Sedums, Globe Thistle, Sunflowers, Wallflowers, Cornflowers, Clematis, Honeysuckle, Love In a Mist & Perennial Geraniums.
Even if you only plant one or two bee friendly plants you will help to give bee's a pesticide free food source and times that by the millions of gardens, window boxes and allotments across the Uk and that adds up to acres of habitat all free of harmful chemicals.
If you've got the room why not consider becoming a Bee Keeper? The Beekeepers Association provides help and training courses ~ more information can be found here
Beauty & the Bee
I like to support Uk companies and if those companies are also supporting bees then that's even better in my book, here are just a few of my favourite companies doing just that.
 Bee Lovely Range of products, also donates 25p to Bee related charities for every Bee Lovely product sold. ~ £40,000 raised so far!
Neal's Yard also took a petition of 117,345 names direct to Downing Street in support of banning pesticides.
Amazing effort from Neal's Yard!
Bee Keeping business based in the Cotswolds, handmakes 100% natural lipbalms from beeswax and botanical extracts.
Amazing company which started keeping bees from the flat roof of a ex council block near Tower Bridge, London and now has hives across London and throughout the Uk.
Sells various products from Honey, lipbalms, honeycomb and beeswax candles.
A family bee keeping business started in 1948 in Berwick upon Tweed, sells a variety of products including Honey Ointments which are naturally antiseptic and something I personally haven't seen anywhere else.
Makers & manufatureres in the UK of Bee Propolis nutritional suppliments, their capsules are all natural and have no GMO's.
They are also passionate about raising awareness of bee decline, and support the sustainability of bee colonies and the practice of ethical bee keeping.
A family run beekeeping business in South Wales, sells a vareity of beeswax products from skincare, beeswax candles to honey and polish.
They have also have a lovely baby range of products too.
I realise this has been quite a long post, but I really wanted to just raise awareness of this issue and hopefully encourage you all to become more bee friendly!
As ever you are all welcome to leave your comments & blog links below
Till next time my lovelies!
Jenny xx



  1. Oh no...this is so sad.Good thing we have a little garden at home ^.^ can't wait till summer and start planting some good flowers for those little bees~ Great post!

  2. Thanks Vanessa ! So pleased to hear you will be planting some bee friendly plants this summer :-) xxx

  3. I love that you wrote about this! I have been thinking about doing this topic myself but yours blew me away and I love the photos too :) x

    1. Thankyou Ana! What a lovely comment! It's been a while in the writing, so am glad you enjoyed reading it. The photos are from flowers in my garden :-)xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  4. What a beautiful and charming post Jenny. I love bees, living in the countryside as a child there used to be hundreds in the large garden we had. My mother taught me not to be afraid of them. It's so upsetting they are in decline. I believe that supporting and buying organic food will also help the bees as the money can be invested in creating more organic crops.
    I love the pictures on here especially of the pretty Peacock butterfly, they are my favourite!
    Well done you on this wonderful post sweetheart xx

    1. Thankyou so much danny what a lovely and very thoughtful comment! :-)
      How lucky you were to grow up in the countryside as a child, I didn't but sadly but do still remember our garden being full of bees too, it's so sad that it's not the case now :-(.
      I was also taught by my Father, who was a big gardener, not to be afraid either so I never have been :-)
      I totally agree supporting organic food production will no doubt help bees long term and wildlife genrally.
      I was pretty excited when the peacock butterfly landed on my hand I can tell you lol! xxxx