TV presenter, Alys Fowler, urges gardeners to help bees
Gardeners are being urged to create bee-friendly gardens this Easter, traditionally one of the busiest gardening weekends of the year, to help protect bees threatened by habitat loss and climate change.
BBC gardening presenter Alys Fowler is offering British gardeners top tips to help bees at Easter, as part of Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause campaign to save vital bees that pollinate our food and make our countryside, parks and gardens thrive.
The environment charity is also calling for the Government’s plan to reverse bee decline, the National Pollinator Strategy, to be considerably strengthened to tackle all the threats bees face, especially from intensive farming and pesticides.
More than 20 UK bee species are already extinct and a quarter of those remaining are at risk – due mainly to their food and nesting sites disappearing, with 97% of wildflower meadows gone in the last 60 years.
Alys Fowler said:
“Gardens are becoming one of the most important refuges for Britain’s wild and honey bees, providing chemical-free food, clean water and a place to nest.
“The Government must strengthen its plan to protect bees and other pollinators – but gardeners have a key role to play too.”
“Taking steps to make your garden bee-friendly brings in other beneficial insects and wildlife too, helping your garden to find its natural balance. When the balance is right, there is no such thing as a pest problem, meaning less work for you.
“In return, bees will pollinate your fruits and vegetables, giving you more strawberries, apples and tomatoes to enjoy.”
Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:
“Green-fingered gardeners are usually green-minded too, so this Easter we hope they’ll make their gardens bee-friendly to keep Britain blooming and help protect these crucial pollinators.
“But we need the Government to take action as well by ensuring its upcoming National Pollinator Strategy is strong enough to protect our bees from all the threats they face.”
Alys Fowler’s top gardening tips for Easter:
- Planting nectar and pollen rich flowers will help you and the pollinators. Crimson clover, (trifolium incarnatum) will please the bees and increase soil fertility through its nitrogen fixing roots.
- Lacy phacelia (phacelia tanacetifolia) is a green manure that if left to flower will bring hordes of bees. Once it has finished flowering, but before it goes to seed, you can dig it in to improve the fertility of your soil.
- Allow edible plants like coriander and rocket to flower, these are attractive to bees and once pollinated you can collect seed to sow for next year.
- Soft fruit is wonderful for bees and delicious to eat too. Take your pick from blackberries, currants and gooseberries to wineberries, blueberries and raspberries – there's something for every garden.
- Provide a clean source of drinking water for bees. All that's needed is a shallow bowl with a few pebbles in the middle, so the bees can rest and sip water.
- Wild bees need nesting sites, somewhere dry and warm. Make a ‘bee hotel’ by bundling together some old stems of stuff like Jerusalem artichokes or bamboo canes south west facing out of prevailing winds. [step-by-step guide to making a bee hotel available in notes].
Friends of the Earth is also urging people concerned about the plight of British bees to sign a petition calling on Bees Minister Lord de Mauley to improve the draft National Pollinator Strategy, open for public consultation until 2 May 2014: www.foe.co.uk/beespetition
Green-minded gardeners are encouraged to use the many excellent alternatives to peat in order to avoid the destruction of peat bogs, which are important wildlife sites that absorb carbon pollution and reduce flood risk.
Notes to editors
1. Alys Fowler appeared on BBC TWO’s Great British Garden Revival in January 2014, and has presented Gardeners’ World and her own show The Edible Garden. She writes a weekly gardening column for the Guardian and is the author of five books including The Thrifty Gardener, Abundance and the soon-to-be-released Letters to a Beekeeper. @AlysFowler http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03lv3fb/profiles/alysfowler
2. A step-by-step guide on how to make a ‘bee hotel’ for your garden is available here: http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/bee_hotel.pdf
3. To find out more about which bee species need help where you live, see this report by University of Reading scientists highlighting the threats posed to iconic bee species around the UK: http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/bees_iconic_bees_report.pdf
4. Friends of the Earth has led the campaign to save British bees and other pollinators since launching its Bee Cause campaign in April 2012, which convinced the Government to introduce a national Bee Action Plan (National Pollinator Strategy - NPS) through building a coalition of more than 200 MPs, businesses such as the Co-operative and B&Q, the Women’s Institute and over 70,000 individuals. http://www.foe.co.uk/bees
5. Friends of the Earth is calling for the Government’s National Pollinator Strategy to be strengthened in the following areas:
• Proper support for farmers - Government proposals for confronting intensive farming are generally weak, vague and reliant on entirely voluntary actions;
• More action to tackle rising pesticide use and urge parks and gardeners to avoid spraying, in the light of increasing evidence about the potentially devastating impact on our bees;
• More onus on developers needed to safeguard pollinators by improving land use so bee habitats increase with development, not the reverse;
• Proper funding for the strategy instead of unclear or inadequate proposal. The Government cannot just rely on people’s goodwill to act. http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/bees-draft-national-pollinator-strategy-must-be-strengthened_06032014
6. In 2013, the charity also persuaded numerous large garden centres and DIY stores to remove products containing toxic neonicotinoid pesticides from their shelves. The chemicals were suspended from sale for two years by the EU at the end of last year due to concerns over harm to bees’ health.
7. Last month the world’s leading scientists warned that climate change is having severe negative impacts on bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects and could result in more extinctions of species, especially when combined with the other stresses bees face, from habitat loss to pesticide use: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/10730667/Bees-and-the-crops-they-pollinate-are-at-risk-from-climate-change-IPCC-report-to-warn.html