I'll be honest, I've not always been a friend of the bees. When I was 7, a bee landed in my ear and stung me. My ear swelled up to resemble that of a rugby player's, and I had to take that funny banana-tasting antibiotic medicine for weeks before it went back down. Naturally, I became absolutely terrified of the black and yellow blighters. Plus our neighbourhood had stacks of lavender growing everywhere, and its foamy pollen was a bee heaven, and incidentally became my hell.
I've come a long way since then, and if my memory serves me correctly, there are far less of those buzzing bumblers out and about nowadays. I can partially blame city living for the last four years of my life, but deep down I also know that bees are really having a hard time. According to the Soil Association, pesticides (or neonics) are the number one reason why - and let's not be silly, if you spray a plant with chemicals to kill bugs, how are bees going to cope?
Bees are important because they pollinate fruit, vegetables, and crops. These are all things we live off, and make bees critical to our food chain as well as many other animals. If I need to give you more of a reason to help, bees are crucial to the pollination of cocoa beans. Now. Imagine a world without any chocolate. That's why bees are important.
In an effort to help out our little friends, plus having caught a case of bee-fever when I spotted the first bee in my garden earlier in the year (I blame Nectar & Bumble founder Amber!) I've decided to put together a list of easy ideas that can suit anyone living practically anywhere in helping the bees bounce back. If my little London flat can entertain bees, yours certainly can too!
Whether you're a gardner or not (and let's be honest, I just killed my cacti so I'm definitely not), there are ways to provide pollen to keep your local bees topped up. For the green-fingered, growing plants such as lavender (I'll try not to shudder), sunflowers, birdsfoot, and thyme all help, and they have their home uses too. Off the top of my head, you can use dried lavender as potpourri, sunflower seeds in baking, and thyme in cooking, plus I'm sure there are many more.
For us lesser gardeners, I really love this alternative I found recently at a permaculture festival: Seedballs. These are little clay balls you can throw on top of soil, and leave to naturally sink into the soil with rainwater and germinate all by themselves. They do a bee mix version which contains five different flowers, and they also tell you when exactly you need to scatter them to have the best chance of growing. Genius!
We live in a supply-and-demand kind of world, so use your money to vote against pesticidal use and buy organic products. If you're looking for an online shop, Planet Organic is definitely the place, or perhaps try getting an organic veg box delivered - I've used Riverford before and would like to try Abel & Cole too.
DECORATE WITH BEES
No, I don't mean literal bees! The Collection of British Bees print* in the above photos is a wonderful piece from Nectar and Bumble, a boutique store selling cute items that support bee conservation. They also donate 10% of their profits to bee conservation charities too!
If you're not like my next-door neighbour and aren't lucky enough to have bees living in your brickwork (I'm not even sure they know...), try hanging up a hive. These can be tiny things that house solitary bees (this wooden hive is just perfect) or perhaps something larger if you have a garden with enough space. Either way, have fun with it - there are over 250 species of bee in the UK so there's a lot for us to spot!