Friends of the Earth get busy to create a better world for bees

PETER UNDERWOOD offers a vitally important lesson on the birds and, especially, the bees

The Friends of the Earth Croydon branch will be busy at this weekend's Green Heritage Festival at Heathfield House

The Friends of the Earth Croydon branch will be busy at this weekend’s Green Heritage Festival at Heathfield House

Bees, and other pollinators, are in crisis. Their numbers are in severe decline.

They’ve lost much of their natural habitat since the middle of the last century.

Changes to how people look after their gardens (many now paved over) and reductions in urban green spaces have reduced food sources for bees in towns and cities.

In the countryside, changes in farming practices mean that we have lost 98 per cent of wildflower meadows since 1955.

On top of all this, bees and other pollinators are also threatened by the industrial-scale use of pesticides.

Why does any of this matter?

Bee pollinatingAs well as being an important and well-loved part of our environment, bees are vital in the production of food. It is not just honey – most of the fruit, nuts, berries, and vegetables we eat depend on bees and other pollinators for their survival.

It is estimated that the global economic cost of bee decline, including lower crop yields and increased production costs, has been estimated at as high as £3.7 billion per year.

Friends of the Earth launched the Bee Cause campaign to call on the Government to reverse the decline in bee numbers. The urgent priorities were a ban on bee-harming pesticides – particularly neonicotinoids – and the development of a National Pollinator Strategy. The Croydon group has supported this campaign by making people aware of the issue and encouraging people to sign petitions calling on the government to act. We have had a number of stalls at fairs and events, including screening the film, More than Honey upstairs at the Spreadeagle pub last year.

We have had some success. The Government did produce a UK National Pollinator Strategy in 2014. We believe it did not go far enough but at least it acknowledged that there is a problem and we need to act. And, despite opposition from the UK Government, the EU has introduced a temporary ban on use of neonicotinoids – we now have to make sure that this ban becomes permanent and is properly enforced.

Friends of the Earth volunteers hard at work creating the sort of wild flower environment in which bees can thrive

Friends of the Earth volunteers hard at work creating Bee World at Heathfield House, with the sort of wild flower environment in which bees can thrive

We will continue to campaign to make these changes at national and Europe-wide levels but the Croydon Friends of the Earth group has always believed that we can make a difference by what we do locally.

This is why we have created a Bee World here in Croydon.

A Bee World is a demonstration of things we can all do in our gardens that will help bees survive. The Heathfield Ecology Centre kindly offered up some space in their rockery garden and over the course of this year we have developed the space, with the aid of a small grant from Croydon Council and a lot of hard work from members of the Croydon Friends of the Earth Group.

We sowed lots of wildflower seeds and this year we have had a good number come through, particularly poppies, cornflower and yellow rattle. We have planted out some Bee-friendly plants and are growing others on in pots ready for planting next year.

We’re always happy for other people to join in and help out so if you have an hour or two every now and then or if you’d like to donate plants from your garden that are buzzing with bees, we’d appreciate your support.

If you want to find out more about the work of the Croydon Friends of the Earth Group, then you can look on our website or our Facebook page.

Foe Peter UnderwoodIf you would like to see the Bee World or meet us to say hello, we have a stall at the Green Heritage Fair at Heathfield House this weekend, September 19-20.

  • Peter Underwood, pictured right, is the chair of the Croydon Friends of the Earth
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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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