Monday, 8 June 2015

Where are our bees?


Bees are in decline. That is what we have been hearing and even someone on the street might have heard about this. The situation is drastic, which is why everyone needs to act now.


Bumblebee in my garden June 2015, Compton Martin, Somerset
Photograph taken by young birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)


I recently wrote a guest blog for AFON and Beyond GM about GMO crops and their impact on our health and the environment http://bit.ly/1QeZqFL

One of the big impacts in the USA of GMO’s has been the decimation of the bee population, with one third dying since 2006.

One third of all crops in the US is now pollinated by hives of honeybees and without these would fail due to the loss of wild bees.  Farmers are now paying 20% more for the pollination of crops.

GMO crops are genetically modified so that their seeds are sterile. This is because under the patent, seeds must be bought every year and can not be re-used as is the case with natural plants.  The impact of these sterile seeds is that the pollen is sterile, which has been found to cause intestinal disease in honey bees killing them rapidly with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  Another impact is the high levels of herbicides and pesticides sprayed on crops, killing not just bees but butterflies and birds who feed on the poisons.


Early Bumblebee in my garden June 2014, Garden Bio Blitz, Compton Martin, Somerset
Photograph taken by young birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


ICUN Report 2015 on bees

In this month’s BTOnews, the magazine of the British Trust for Ornithology, there was an article called “bee alert” in which they stated that the first ever assessment of all European wild bee species had been published by the IUCN as part of their European Red List of Bees and the Status and Trends of European Pollinators (STEP) project.

This is the first time that a report has provided information on all 1,965 wild bee species in Europe

It indicated the following:

9%         Threatened with extinction
5.2%      Likely to be threatened in the near future

56.7%  Classified as Data Deficient (because of lack of experts, data & funding has made it impossible to calculate their extinction risk)

12.6%    Have a stable population
7.7%      Have a declining population
0.7%      Have an increasing population
79%       Have unknown population info

Changing farming practices and increased intensification have led to large-scale losses of and degradation of bee habitats, one of the main threats to their survival...until GMO’s arrive next year.


Tree Bumblebee in my garden June 2014, Garden Bio Blitz, Compton Martin, Somerset
Photograph taken by young birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


The Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT)

This was set up because of serious concerns about the “plight of the bumblebee”.  In the last 80 years our bumblebee populations have crashed.  2 species have become extinct in Britain and others have declined dramatically.

There are 24 species of Bumbebee in the UK, which have different length tongues and so feed on different shaped flowers. 

They are declining due to a shortage of flowers to feed on and places to nest in the countryside.  In the last 60 years we have lost 97% of vital wildflower meadows.  However, 75% of our main food crops rely on Bumblebees for pollination.  Without Bumblebees, our whole food chain is under threat.

The bees kept by beekeepers are the one species of honeybee that we get in the UK and can only feed on open flowers. 

This is means that if we lose our bumblebee species, their ability to pollinate a variety of flowers can not be replaced by hives of honey bees.  In my area of Somerset, bee hives sitting in fields are already common, being used to pollinate crops due to the shortage of bumblebees.


Early Bumblebee in my garden June 2014, Garden Bio Blitz, Compton Martin, Somerset
Photograph taken by young birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


The European 2 year ban on some pesticides


In December 2013, the EU banned three pesticides linked to a decline in bees.  They were three neonicotinoids, clothiannidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxan.  Many scientists say that 2 years is not long enough to assess the impact of the ban, as crops flowering one year would have been planted and sprayed the year before, so the ban is only effectively for one year.

A June 2014 report by the World Conservation Union, found irrefutable evidence that bumblebee colonies are effected by these pesticides.  A University of London report dated September 2012 and University of Dundee report from 2013 both also found the pesticides had a detrimental impact on bumblebees.  I can't see how that is a surprise.


What can you do?



“Few people realise just how important bumblebees are. They are charming little things and a pleasure to see, but they also do an essential job which many people take for granted. If bumblebees continue to decline then we face ecological turmoil. Join BBCT today and support their important work”  

Chris Packham BBCT President




“Bumblebees are key factors to our wildlife. If they disappear many of our plants will not bear fruit. I am proud to be associated with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust”

Sir David Attenborough

  • Sign the Friends of the Earth petition to ban bee killing pesticides http://bit.ly/1QFCCPG
  • Join BBCT and get involved with their activities. 
  • Plant a wide variety of bumblebee friendly plants. Our garden is a wildlife garden and packed with flowers ideal for different species of bumblebee. Even we could do more and I am going to use the BBCT “bee kind” survey to work our which flowers are missing to complete our bumblebee attracting garden.
  • Make or buy a home for bees to hibernate in during the winter.


For more information

The Bumblebee Conservation Trustbumblebeeconservation.org or @BumblebeeTrust

Friends of the Earth 
- The Bee Cause http://bit.ly/1GNnIXN

Early Bumblebee in my garden June 2014, Garden Bio Blitz, Compton Martin, Somerset
Photograph taken by young birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Early Bumblebee in my garden June 2014, Garden Bio Blitz, Compton Martin, Somerset
Photograph taken by young birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

About the writer


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Scilly
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig



Mya-Rose Craig is a 13 year old young birder, conservationist, environmentalist, activist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol, UK and blogs about birding and conservation from around the world. Wader conservation is important to her and she is Ambassador to the global wader initiative World Shorebird Day. She is looking forward to Mountain Gorilla trekking this summer in East Africa and to watching penguins in Antarctica in December, which will be her 7th continent. She has recently been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter.




















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