Bees have been buzzing around the news recently, for a couple of different reasons! Firstly there are now links between a significant decline in honeybee colonies and the change in foraging behaviour of the honeybees, brought on by some sort of environmental stress such as pesticides or parasite attacks. When a colony of honeybees are put under stress they react by sending the younger bees out to forage for food while the older bees stay put, these younger bees are much more likely to die prematurely than bees sent at when they are older to forage for food. The losses of these younger bees affects the colonies numbers drastically and if the hive isn’t large enough to withstand these losses the whole colony can collapse! The exact cause of the decline is not totally clear at the moment but it could affect our wild bees as well as other pollinating insects. This is why we must all do our bit towards saving our bees whilst the scientists work out exactly what is going on and why!
The second reason bees have been in the newzzzz is due to record numbers of wild bees living in urban areas. Flowers planted in gardens and allotments can provide a valuable food source for bees which of course in turn increases pollination and we all know how valuable that is, to everyone! Research shows that bees are now surviving just as well as they do in rural areas, and although a large crop if a huge food source for bees, the variations found amongst our gardens provide a mixed source of flowers throughout the whole year. Now that the risk of pesticides is known and seems to sadly be taking affect it is more important than ever that we look after the bees and try and help the numbers not just hold but increase in urban areas, which should in turn help the whole population.
A great way to help your neighbourhood bees is to provide them with bee-friendly flowers that are loaded with pollen and/or oozing with nectar. It doesn’t matter whether you have a garden, vegetable plot, window box or a simply a hanging basket, plant pot or tub, there are plants available to suit all spaces and flowering seasons.
Here are just a few –
- Star Magnolia
- Cherry Laurel
- Common kitchen herbs such as Chives, Mint, Thyme, Rosemary & Sage
Bees are incredibly important and vital to our food chain. For example in the UK 1/3 of the food we eat is pollination dependent. They pollinate 70 types of crops, contribute over £300 million to the economy and of course not forgetting their ability to produce honey – a whopping 6,000 tonnes of the sweet, runny sticky stuff! So, in a nutshell or rather a beehive, we need to do all we can to help our bees survive!
A little bit about honey
Honey has been a natural food source for humans throughout evolutionary history, a quick re-cap of biology at school: honey bees feed on nectar from plants, which is a sugar-rich liquid. Producing honey from this nectar happens in the bee hive, it is a colony task that involves repeated consumption, digestion and regurgitation, nice!! A few times round with this process creates honey, it’s composition, flavour and nutritional values depends on the plants that the nectar was collected from. For examplE honey from pine forests and heather moors tends to be more amber in colour, with a deep strong flavour, slightly tasting of resin. Honey from orange blossom is a lot lighter in colour and taste. Lavender honey really captures the plant’s perfume in it’s taste and Manuka honey is toffee like in flavour and colour.
So is honey good for us?
Honey is mainly made up from fructose, so it is better than refined sugar, although it still is sugar! It has a lower GI than refined sugar but in large quantities can contribute to similar things that too much refined sugar can. However, it is natural – it’s a natural sweetener and it does have health benefits! When buying honey try to support local bee keepers, many big brands process their honey where it is heated and filtered, which removes the vitamins and minerals it contains – stripping out it’s enzymes, antioxidants and antibacterial qualities. The darker the honey the more rich in all these things it is, including Manuka honey whose healing properties make it some what of a wonder food! Honey can help boost the immune system, improve skin conditions and heal external wounds!
Plus….Winnie the Pooh loves it!