The other “B” word — not Brexit or Boris, but British bees
by Sangeeta Haindl — Organic food UK home delivery service Abel & Cole has welcomed 60,000 honeybees to its offices in Wimbledon as part of its commitment to educating people about the importance of bees and other pollinators. This ethical food business, which sells organic food nationwide, is working with sustainable beehive management company Plan Bee Ltd and hopes to welcome up to 180,000 honeybees this summer. Organic farming plays a crucial role in protecting biodiversity and while Abel & Cole may not be farmers, they believe that they can still play a positive part in sustainable food systems.
Since 2007 the amount of bees in the UK has decreased by a third, due to farming methods, a lack of bee-friendly plants and global warming. Yet these insects are crucial for biodiversity and are responsible for pollinating a third of the food that we eat. Therefore, protecting and preserving dwindling honeybee populations is an important environmental commitment from this company, as its support with other food producers is essential part of supporting British bees, British agriculture and British food production. The only air miles that will go into Abel & Cole’s honey will be those flown by their bees and since 2010 Abel & Cole has run a various awareness campaigns with its customers about the decline in pollinator populations. The company is also looking to create pollinator palaces at each of its eight depots to ensure all staff have the chance to do their bit to help bees and bumblebees.
Plan Bee has already returned more than ten million bees to the natural environment. As an urban farmer, it has taken what was a dying rural craft, modernised and urbanised it, giving it broad corporate appeal. Like Abel & Cole, Plan Bee shares that ethos, working with businesses that not only care about good food, but also truly care about the environment.
Bees are high on the news agenda, as biologists at Queen Mary University of London have super-glued ‘licence plates’ to 500 bees, which have been released into the environment to uncover the secret lives of the insects. This is called the London Pollinator Project, which is trying to locate the bees’ preferred patches in the capital and discover which are their favourite flowers. Also, to encourage a citywide bee hunt, the university is awarding prizes of £100 vouchers for the best pictures of these special insects. The bees individual 'license plates' will enable anyone interested to develop their own science project and ask scientific questions about the behaviour of bees. The knowledge gathered will help researchers improve planting schemes to help bee populations thrive.
Sadly, Britain’s bees are facing multiple threats, from loss of flower meadows and quiet places to nest, to the use of pesticides in most modern farming. The good news is that these above initiatives show that we can all play a part in helping them. Our towns and cities could become huge nature reserves for pollinators.
Photo Credit: Plan Bee