'When the flower blooms, the bees come uninvited.' - Ramakrishna
Alex and I are going on a beekeeping course over the next two weekends and while I'm a tiny bit scared of being stung, I'm really interested to study the process involved in looking after a hive. The bee populations in Britain have taken a huge nosedive and I think it's really important to learn about these incredible creatures without whom agriculture would take a serious beating; bees and other wild pollinators are responsible for pollinating up to 84% of EU crops.
Attracted by the 'Bee Lovely' products in a Neal's Yard Remedies window in Borough Market a few weeks ago, I walked into the shop and had a great chat about honeybees with the woman manning the counter, who was very enthusiastic about the 'Save the Bees' campaign Neal's Yard are currently running. Their Bee Lovely range includes hand cream, body cream, shower gel and hand wash; £1 from each tube of hand cream goes to Buglife, Landlife and Pesticide Action Network UK in support of their bee-friendly initiatives. In addition, Neal's Yard are donating £10, 000 a year towards bee-friendly projects. Wanting to know more, I asked the woman what we might do to help the bees on an individual level, and she gave me the following advice.
• Buy organic or pesticide-free products, especially plants, flowers and seeds.
• Plant bee-friendly herbs and wild flowers in your back garden if you have one. Bee-friendly plants include cornflowers, cosmos, sunflowers, dahlias, crocuses, borage, mint, rosemary, lavender, ivy, poppies - the list goes on! You could also let part of your garden go wild to create a haven for insects.
• Don't use insecticides in the garden - use biological controls instead!
• Give a bee a home: put a simple box in your garden and wild bees will use it as a home. A great way to attract bees without the commitment of beekeeping - see Bee Guardian Foundation for more info.
• Buy chemical-free, unfiltered honey from a local beekeeper rather than supermarket honey, which is usually sourced from thousands of miles away.
• Become a beekeeper!
Experts have warned that honeybees could disappear entirely from the UK in 2018. The loss of natural pollinators could cost British agriculture up to £440 million a year and completely devastate our ecosystem, so I think this is a very important cause to get behind! I'll be reporting back on how the course goes - fingers crossed I don't get too many stings in the pursuit of learning how to help bees...
*This isn't a sponsored post in any way - I'm very passionate about the bee cause and thought that the Neal's Yard campaign was a very worthy one to write about on here. There's a great BBC2 programme called Hive Alive on iPlayer at the moment that'll give you a good introduction to how honeybees work. They truly are incredible creatures!