National Honeybee Day is on August 20 and National Grid is helping to combat a decline in numbers by hosting beehives on areas of non-operational land
The much-loved honeybee produces a food that has made our lives a little sweeter for thousands of years, but it is facing formidable challenges.
A lack of forage as a result of intensive farming, as well as losses caused by pesticides, pests and diseases, has led to a dramatic decline in honeybee numbers in recent years. That’s a real problem because the bees pollinate up to a third of everything we eat, including a range of important crops such as oilseed rape, apples and strawberries.
For its part, National Grid is working with the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) to help combat the honeybee’s decline by providing secure areas of non-operational green space to host beehives.
In so doing it is not only increasing the number of bees available for pollination but also providing a long term management option for the land.
It is also a key priority of the company’s sustainability strategy is to make a positive contribution to the preservation and enhancement of the natural environment and its ecosystems.
With a property portfolio of more than 600 sites the company is in a powerful position to make a landscape-scale contribution to the preservation and restoration of habitats and biodiversity.
National Grid already has 19 safe and secure sites for honeybee colonies in the UK, managed by local beekeepers, and it is working with the BBKA to increase the number. In some cases employees are helping with the care of the bee hives. The sites are not always in rural areas. For example, many are in London where suitable space is otherwise limited.
“The aim is to make a positive contribution to help preserve this valuable resource for future generations,” said Cirhan Truswell of National Grid’s Safety, Sustainability and Resilience team.
“As long as site operations allow – and there is space for beehives – the scheme can be replicated across many of our sites. In some cases we have also altered mowing regimes to encourage wild flowers to grow between April and September, creating vital refuelling stations for wild pollinators.”
Groups of employees at National Grid House in Warwick and at a site in Eakring, Nottinghamshire, also taking part in a monthly BeeWalk (www.beewalk.org.uk/) to support research by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
The observations collected by BeeWalk volunteers on individual sites are used by the Trust to monitor how bumblebee populations are evolving through time as a result of changes in climate and land use. This in turn helps provide early warning signs of population decline.
The Bee’s Needs – How you can help
- Take up a new hobby! Every year the BBKA runs local courses to help people take up beekeeping. Contact your local branch.
- Provide a space for hives. If you know of a piece of land that would be suitable for a beehive contact your local BBKA branch. There may be beekeepers looking for suitable land.
- Plant a bee-friendly garden. Choose nectar and pollen-rich plants and trees that flower from spring to autumn. (for more information visit BBKA.org.uk
- Help to protect swarms. These are part of the bees’ natural reproductive process. If you see a swarm call the local authority or a local beekeeper who will come and collect the bees and transfer them to a new hive.
- Buy local honey. This helps beekeepers cover the cost of beekeeping and keeps food miles down. Local honey also has flavours that reflects local flora and does not undergo extra processing to prolong shelf life.
- Become a Friend of the Honey Bee to help fund research into varoa mite (www.friendsofthehoneybee.com)
- £200 million – the economic value of honeybees in the UK as pollinators of commercially grown crops
- 267 – species of bee are resident to the UK, including the well-known honey bee, bumblebees and solitary bees
- 78% – of temperate flowering plants are insect pollinated, meaning that without insects such as bees they could not reproduce.