Buzzing about these plant pollinators? From books to honey gin, here’s how you can help
Eva Waite-Taylor | Independent
WORLD Bee Day – celebrated annually on 20 May – is a day adopted by the United Nations from the Slovenian Beekeepers Association to raise awareness of the importance of protecting and preserving bees and other pollinators. It honours not just honeybees, but bumblebees (of which there are 21 species) and the 77 species of solitary bees, too.
While bees are most commonly known for honey, these intelligent creatures are also behind most of the food we love – fruit, veg, chocolate and even coffee.
And Albert Einstein once famously said that “if the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live”. But why are bees so important?
Essentially, bees are crucial for the pollination of plants – pollinating a third of the food we eat and 80 per cent of flowering plants – many fruit, veg and crops that feed livestock depend on bees to pollinate them.
While there are other methods of pollination – including wind, birds, bats and other insects – wild bees are among the most important, because they are capable of pollinating on a much bigger scale.
Their importance is so great, that it has been estimated that if wild bees disappeared, it could cost UK farmers £1.8bn a year to pollinate crops manually, making them essential for our food supply.
Sadly, the bee population is depleting. Since 1900, the UK has lost 13 species of bee, and a further 35 are considered to be under threat of extinction. The known causes of bee decline include pesticides, habitat loss and climate change.
But it’s not all bad news. Plantlife previously told The Independent that thanks to the lockdown measures that were in place, a number of insect-harming practices have been unintentionally put on hold, such as mowing roadside verges. This has benefited bees because they depend on full, flower-rich verges for survival. Just one hectare of road verge can produce 60kg of nectar sugar – which is said to be enough to support more than six million honeybees.
Luckily, there are plenty of other ways you can bee a hero and do your bit to protect these all important creatures – most of which can be done in the comfort of your own home or outdoor space.
In honour of World Bee Day, we’ve compiled a round-up of all the best ways you can help save the bees, and we’re buzzing about it.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Bumblebee Conservation Trust lavender bumblebee tote bag
This is the only charity in the UK dedicated to the protection of bees. The team works across the UK supporting bumblebee-friendly habitats, raising awareness and gathering scientific evidence about bumblebee populations to safeguard their future.
It donates a proportion of every sale to the charity, so by buying one of the many products on the site, you are helping to protect the future of the bees. Replace single-use plastic bags with this 100 per cent organic tote – it's durable enough to carry your everyday essentials and a great print. We also loved the artwork sold on the site – particularly the Queen bee (£20, Bumblebeeconservationteemill.com) and the bumblebees (£20, Bumblebeeconservationteemill.com) prints.
Warner's honeybee flavoured gin
Released in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) to protect Britain's pollinators, this gin contains 28 botanicals, including lavender, rose and a dollop of honey from its own beehives. Each bottle comes with a packet of wildflower seeds so you can plant your own bee-friendly garden. And Warner's has recently joined 1% for the Planet, a not-for-profit charity bringing brands and businesses together to create change. As such, this distiller is giving environmental projects a helping hand along with the bees – we love to hear it.
Primrose lavender plants
Preserving wild habitats and restoring ecological agriculture is key to saving bees. If you have a garden or small outdoor space, plant the flowers that are essential for pollinators. A study by scientists at the University of Sussex found that lavender grosso plants are a favourite among bumblebees. With one of the strongest fragrances, and deep violet in colour – this isn’t just great for the bees, it's also a nice treat for you.
'Planting for Honeybees: The Grower's Guide to Creating a Buzz' by Sarah Wyndham, published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd
Sarah Wyndham Lewis offers a practical guide – including advice on which plants you should grow along with when and where to plant them – to help honeybees flourish in your outdoor space. And if you don't have a garden, don't disregard it as you can do your bit, even with a windowsill.
Beevive bee revival kit
Inspired by a spontaneous encounter with a tired bee – Beevive began designing a bee revival keyring to make sure people are well equipped with the essential solution (a mix of sugar and water) to help tired bees survive.
If you see an exhausted bee – often one that’s away from nature or flowers – Beevive advises you move it onto a nearby plant or ensure it’s out of harm’s way and feed it a couple of drops of the sugary water solution next to it, so it can slurp it up. The syrupy mix is intended to mimic the quality of the food available to bees, providing a one-off energy boost that will help them to continue pollenating.
Refilling the solution couldn’t be easier, simply fill the bottle halfway with white granulated sugar and top the rest up with water. Replace the cork and shake for 30 seconds.
Home of Juniper gold plated bee necklace
A simple gold necklace is the perfect addition to your everyday jewellery collection – and this delicate bee number is a lovely way to show your support. The brand donates 10 per cent of sales to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, so you can’t go wrong.
The Scottish Bee Company Scottish Heather honey, 227g
Buying honey from independent brands helps local beekeepers cover costs of protecting bees. While it is a little more expensive than your average shop bought alternative, this Scottish Heather honey is rich in flavour and award-winning for a reason. Add a little luxury to your morning breakfast, we promise you won’t regret it.
The Scottish Bee Company has also started a sister charity, RePollinate, which aims to protect and improve the environment by promoting Scotland's threatened pollinator population through education programmes and scientific research. For every jar of honey purchased, 10p is donated to the charity.
Ethical Superstore wooden bee house
Another great way to support bees is by enticing them into your garden, and a bee house is the perfect way to do this. It works by providing bees with a space to seek refuge. Fix the bee box in a south-facing spot, but not in direct sunlight, and make sure the entrance points downwards so rain doesn’t get in.
Bee Good plant a flower meadow wild lavender and comfrey gift set
This is the perfect gift set to buy for yourself or someone else – it includes hand and body soap and a moisturiser, along with a tin of wildflower seed balls. The carefully selected seed mix is designed to attract solitary bees, honeybees and bumblebees.
Bee Good is an independent British skincare company based in rural Hampshire that actively supports British bees – not just with charitable donations, but also by educating young beekeepers, supporting apprentice bee farmers and planting wildflower meadows across the UK. This makes this gift set purchase even more worthwhile.
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