Many of you around the world are basking in a delightful heatwave at the moment. Make sure you get out of the office and enjoy the sunshine. One of the best things about summer is sitting outside, enjoying a cool drink with loved ones and watching the bees buzzing around the garden.
Yet when was the last time you saw a bumblebee? Changes in agricultural techniques, such as increased pesticide use, have seen a dramatic decline in population numbers in recent years. In the UK alone, 97% of flower-rich grassland has been destroyed since the 1930s, removing food supply and habitat. Two bumblebee species have become extinct in the UK and more are threatened. In Ontario, one beekeeper reported the death of more than 37 million bees during June.
As National Geographic points out, one in three bites of food is thanks to a pollinator. If we lose all the bees, our food supply will be hit hard. According to Bumblebee Conservation Trust research, insects contribute 14.2 billion per annum to the EU economy through the pollination of many commercial crops. By pollinating wildflowers, bees maintain complex food chains too.
While the decline of bumblebees is distressing, there are bright sparks. In the US a native bee species was spotted this week for the first time since the 1990s and conservation efforts are underway. Back in Europe, a two-year moratorium on three neonicotinoid pesticides was announced recently the European Parliament after more than 2.5 million people signed a petition.
Organisations such as the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Buglife, Friends of the Bees and Be The Start finalists Project Beeswax are working hard to protect these beautiful, important creatures. Everyone can do their bit by supporting these campaigns, raising awareness, completing surveys and planting bee-friendly plants in gardens.
Next time you are enjoying some strawberries, apples, tomatoes or peas, remember the bees that pollinated them. Lets hope bumblebees are one day a common spectacle in gardens around the world again.