World Bee Day 2023
It’s World Bee Day again where we celebrate the Bees and what they do for us. Bees and many other insects play a vital role in pollinating plants allowing them to reproduce and to produce seeds that will go on to set up the next generation of plants. It is this pollination that causes plants to “fruit” and we owe a great deal of thanks to the pollinating insects as it is plant pollination that gives us nuts, berries, fruits and seeds, all those things that a healthly diet requires. It is no understatement to say that without Bees, and other pollinators, our diet would be a bland affair as we would become much more dependent on root vegetables, which don’t really compare to a nice fresh strawberry, blackberry or apple.
Pollination is a happy relationship for plants and bees. A plant, when in flower, produces nectar (basically sugar filled water) to feed to the bees . This nectar is generally held deep inside the flower causing the Bees to rummage deep and while doing so the flower spreads pollen all over the bees. Some of this is stored in the bees pollen baskets on it back legs that the bees use for a protein boost in the hive, however, the pollen on the back of the bees gets carried from flower to flower and at each one it rubs off onto a new flower and this causes the flower to be pollinated and ultimately produce the fruits, nuts and seeds we all love. It’s a brilliantly fantastic relationship that ultimately produce all food for a most of the mammals on earth (the carnivores need a well fed herbivore)
For some years now At The End of the Avenue, we have wondered what plants our bees may be feeding on as they live on the rural urban fringe. In 2021 we decided to answer that question and had the honey they produced sampled for pollen to see where they had been. It was clear that agricultural crops were the predominate feed source around the hive. There was very little in the way of native wildflowers. This caused us to pause to think. Agricultural crops create a famine and feast scenario for bees. At certain points of the year the supply of nectar is in no short supply as fields of crops flower, such as the endless fields of Rapeseed that is currently everywhere. However, once the crop stops flowering, these miles of flowerless fields effectively become a foodless dessert for the bees and they have to find alternative sources of nectar. This is often known as the June Gap when spring flowers pass and the later flowering species have not flowered yet. It is also well know that urban bees have a more constant food supply as we attempt to keep colour in our gardens all year round. So we attempted to plant as many native flowers in our garden to see if we could help them through June and keep the food supply high. Last years sample (2022) shows that our small little plot made very little difference to the total of non-agricultural forage, however, if we could all collectively start to plant more native species in our garden, or leave wild patches of flowers, perhaps this could change. So we are encouraging everyone to plant for pollinators and make a small contribution to a larger effort to help the bees in June.