Your Class Can Save the Bees
The rapid decline in UK bees is becoming an increasing concern. Whilst the outlook is looking somewhat gloomy, there is a lot that we can do to help. Get your pupils engaged with the plight of bees, and get them enthused about saving these brilliant creatures, with the information in our latest blog below.
Are you already helping your local bees? What activities have you been doing with your class? We’d love to know, so please tell us in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
There have been 270 species of bee identified in the UK, and over 20,000 species worldwide! Most types of bee can be put into one of two groups; social bees and solitary bees.
Honey bees and Bumblebees are both social bees. They live in groups consisting of a queen bee, drones (male bees whose main purpose is to mate with the queen) and worker bees (female bees who forage for pollen and nectar, tend to the queen, and do most of the work needed to maintain the hive). The type of bees kept by beekeepers is honey bees.
Solitary bees live alone or in pairs. They are smaller than social bees but they are much more efficient as pollinators. One solitary bee can pollinate as many plants as 120 social bees! Solitary bees often live underground or burrow into wood.
There’s a handy bee identification card that you can download for free, on the Friends of the Earth website here.
Did you know?
When a worker bee discovers a good source of nectar or pollen, it will return to the hive to perform a waggle dance to let her nest mates know where it lies. This “waggle dance” is based on a figure 8. The bee moves at an angle, waggles, reverses direction, and waggles some more. Why don’t you have a go?
Why Are Bees Important?
Bees are incredibly important in supporting our food chain. Pollination is needed for plants to reproduce, and many plants depend on bees or other insects as pollinators. It is estimated that £510m of crops are pollinated by insects each year in the UK.
Many of our favourite foods rely on bees for pollination, including apples, onions, lemons, cherries, carrots and more. 100% of almond pollination is done by bees!
What’s more, bees are often a sign of how healthy, or otherwise, our environment is. The more bees you see in a certain area, the healthier it is. This is why the decline in bees in the UK is so worrying.
Friends of the Earth has some great facts about the importance of bees. Click here to find out more.
Since 1900 we have lost 13 species of bee in the UK and there are 35 more species under the threat of extinction. In addition to this, we have lost 40% of our commercial honey bees since 2010.
The reasons for this decline are thought to be varied. They include changes in land use, habitat loss, disease, pollution, farming practices, climate change and, above all, the use of pesticides.
The UK National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides does not protect pollinating insects, or prevent pesticides being used in public areas. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that one group of pesticides, called Neonicotinoids, harm bees. Up until an EU ban in 2018, these pesticides were used commonly in UK farming. It remains to be seen whether this ban will stay in place once the UK leaves the EU in 2019.
How Your Class Can Help
There are lots of ways that you and your class can help bees in your local area. The more of us who help, the better for the bee population as a whole!
Plant a Bee Garden
Planting a garden of flowers which are good for bees is a brilliant way to help. This could be as easy as sowing packets of wild flowers onto an area of your school field. If you don’t have a school field, window boxes are perfect too, especially in inner city areas where bees can struggle to find nectar.
If you have more space and time to create your bee garden, use a mix of plants that are rich in nectar and will give your bees a source of food all year round. Try a combination of; lavender, crocuses, snow drops, lungwort, sedum, chives, sage, rosemary, strawberries, raspberries, comfrey and wood forget-me-nots to make sure you have flowers available in every season. It will smell lovely too.
Build a Bee Hotel
These are great for solitary bees. Your most likely visitors will be mason bees and leaf cutter bees. Find out how to build one here. This will make a perfect class project and you’ll be able to keep an eye on your bees throughout the year.
Write a Class Letter
Why not write a class letter to your local MP encouraging them to support laws to protect more bees? This is a great way to consolidate everything that your class has learned, and to practice making persuasive arguments.
Alternatively, why not write to your local councilors? Ask them to create more wild flower spaces in your town to support bees and other pollinating insects. You could tell them all about the successes in Amsterdam, where the creation of bee hotels, an increase in wildflowers and ban on pesticides in public areas, has led to a 45% increase in bee diversity. Find out more here.
Eating local honey is a fantastic way to support beekeepers and their hives. Why not have a honey tasting session in class?
The dark cold days of winter can sometimes make us feel like summer will never return. But instead of hiding from the weather, why not embrace the great learning opportunities that winter can offer? Take a look at our favourite winter activities for you and your class this season.
Schools across the UK are currently taking part in the Big Schools’ Birdwatch 2019. Run by the RSPB, the Big Schools’ Birdwatch is an annual survey, where pupils go out into the playground and take a record of all of the birds that they see. It fits well with many areas of the curriculum for all age groups and your pupils will love becoming ‘citizen scientists’. Find out how your class can get involved.