The bumblebee lay on its back amongst the gravel of the dirt-track. Her little legs moved weakly as she tried to right herself. It was a sad sight. My friend gently picked her up and, with a tenderness I've rarely seen, brushed some of the dust off and gently tried to get her to feed from some heather. But, despite his best efforts, it looked like the bee was a goner. We left it on a flower, knowing that we did the best we could.
The bumblebee population, for reasons not entirely known, is on the decline, and not just in the UK but worldwide. There are many possible factors, including a loss of habitat, disease, the use of insecticides, and climate change, that have seen the populations plummet and could theoretically lead to a total loss by the year 2035.
It's not only such a sad loss of such beautiful creatures but it could potentially be devastating for many crops which rely on the bumblebee for pollination.
Don't believe this could happen? An area of Sichuan, China, has reportedly lost its pollinators due to the overuse of pesticides and overharvesting of honey. The result: it has become common practice in the last two decades to hand-pollinate pear and apple trees in that region.
My friend, currently working on his Masters degree dissertation, told me how his attitude towards bees has changed since he started to study them. I, not being unknown to rescue snails and caterpillars from certain doom when they try to cross footpaths or roads, was genuinely surprised that simply putting a bumblebee onto a flower (not any flower - it has to be the right kind of flower) could help it to survive.
Here is a couple of small tips that you could do to help:
- If you have a garden, why not set aside a small area for growing wild-flowers. (I tried, once, to convince a landlord that by not weeding the garden, I was actually helping wildlife. Admittedly, at the time, this was more to do with the fact that I didn't want to do any weeding but... If you're in the same position where it's in your contract to keep a garden weed-free, take it from me: your landlord won't believe you. But a small patch of specifically chosen wildflowers would do!).
- Why not buy organic food - it ensures that the food you buy was not grown with the aid of the pesticides that harm bees.
For more info, visit: The Bumblebee Conservation Trust