Feature: How you can help save the bees

“IF the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left.” That was the bold declaration of a certain Albert Einstein.

Dramatic and gloomy it may be, but never has it been more poignant than in the face of an ever dwindling UK bee population which has halved in the past 30 years.

The nose dive in numbers has seen wild honey bees all but wiped out and put the nation’s bumblebees in a precarious position.

So what has led to the mysterious decline?

Viruses and parasites have been blamed by some, while pesticides and climate change have also come under the spotlight.

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With bees responsible for the pollination of 75 per cent of the nation’s crops, fears have been raised that the decrease in numbers could lead to a spike in food prices.

The prediction has set alarm bells ringing worldwide and the UK Government has been called on to do more to tackle the issue.

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Cue the humble Uttlesford gardener to the rescue. The problem may be on a global scale but it is one that can be fought from the comfort of your own back yard.

Just ask Jane Ridler, chairman of the Saffron Walden division of the Essex Beekeepers’ Association.

She stressed that planting bee-friendly flowers in even the smallest of gardens can make a huge difference.

“Planting brightly coloured, simple flowers in a sunny border is a great way of attracting bees and giving them somewhere to forage,” Mrs Ridler told the Reporter.

“Aconite flowers, Crocuses and daisies are all very popular with bees, while growing cherries, apples, pears and raspberries can help too.”

Mrs Ridler added that farmers in the district also had a duty to address the problem.

“There are responsible farmers who have started to plant borders with meadow and hedgerow flowers so that there are more bees around to encourage the pollination of crops.

“Although this is a step in the right direction, farmers can also help by being careful with the chemicals they use.

“There is growing evidence that pesticides, insecticides and herbicides disorientate honey bees so they cannot navigate properly and are unable to get back to the hive.”

This is not the only agricultural problem, however. Mrs Ridler also made it clear that the narrow range of crops in Essex – dominated by wheat and oil seed rape – did not make for a happy hunting ground for bees.

Creating a bee utopia is not the only way you can help reverse the worrying trend, however...

How about trying your hand at a touch of beekeeping?

The hobby has generated a buzz about the district, with 30 new beginners signing up to the Saffron Walden branch of the Essex Beekeepers Association in each of the last three years.

Mrs Ridler believed it had a lot to do with the media attention the topic has generated.

“The number of beekeepers in Essex has doubled in the last five years,” she said.

“About 20 or more people from Saffron Walden and Dunmow have joined so far this year and the local branch now includes around 120 beekeepers.”

Anyone interested in joining the Essex Beekeepers’ Association should contact Mrs Ridler on 01279 718111.

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