Compared to most of our fluffy friends, bees don’t get much love for a lot of the year.
But on July 10, bees get their own special day: National Don’t Step On a Bee Day.
It sounds like one of the more unusual of the UK awareness days, but there is a very serious reason that bees need to be noticed.
Changes in agricultural techniques in the British countryside mean that there are far fewer wildflowers than there used to be. This has led to a dramatic drop in the bumblebee population, as they struggle to survive in a decreased habitat.
Did you know that two species of bee have already become extinct in the UK since the start of the 20th century? Sadly, several other species are in trouble and could become extinct in the UK within a short time.
Changing that wouldn’t just be for the benefit of the bees, either.
Through the pollination of commercial crops like tomatoes, peas, apples and strawberries, insects are estimated to contribute over £400 million every year to the UK economy, according the the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
If bumblebees and other insects that pollinate our crops die out, the extremely high cost of pollinating these plants by other means could significantly increase the cost of fruit and vegetables.
If that’s not enough incentive, listen to David Attenborough–a big fan of the humble bumble:
‘Bumblebees are key factors in our wildlife. If they disappear many of our plants will not bear fruit.’
How you can help
There are a huge number of ways that you can get involved in supporting the Great British bumblebee, whether you’re a gardener, a honey fanatic or a social media powerhouse.
1. Don’t step on a bee!
The name of the day says it all really. If you’re not going to actively help bees with some of the ideas below… at least don’t hurt them!
2. Make bees welcome
Fill your garden with bee-friendly plants. These will produce nectar and pollen for the bees all year round, and your local bees will love you for it. Click here for information about bee-friendly gardening from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
Other ways to make bees feel welcome in your garden are:
Making a small mini wildflower meadow in a particular area, which will look amazing and help bees thrive.
Don’t use pesticides, bees don’t like them.
Put some rocks in your bird bath. Bees will be able to get the water they need without getting so wet they can’t get back out.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has lots of opportunities for ways that volunteers can get involved. Click here to find out what roles they are looking to fill and for information about how to apply.
4. Buy British
Most of our honey in the UK is imported. But by visiting your local farm shop or deli, you can support the beekeepers in your area and, by extension, support your local bees.
5. Join a survey
Help the Trust monitor bumblebee populations and behaviours by taking part in one of their survey schemes that help them keep an eye on bumble populations around the country. Click here for information.
6. Get out there
The Trust have lots of events all over the country throughout the year. They’re everything us bee-lovers would ever want, from bumblebee safaris to identification workshops, so click here to find out more.
7. Pass it on
If you’ve got children, there’s loads of information and fun activities for children here, to help the next generation of We Make Changers get started!
One amazing idea for a building project–for kids or grown-ups!–is to make a bee hotel, where solitary bees can nest. Did you know there are around 220 species of wild bee in the UK, called ‘solitary’ because they make individual nest cells for their larvae? That’s the kind of bee that will love your bee hotel.
Click here for all the information you need to build a bee hotel, courtesy of Friends of the Earth.
8. Spread the word
Keep the conversation about the Great British bee crisis going, by sharing your thoughts on social media with the hashtag #DontStepOnABeeDay.