Bee The Change
Did you know insects are estimated to contribute over £600 million per annum to the UK economy (2015) by pollinating many commercial crops such as tomatoes, peas, apples and strawberries? And in doing so, support our local food and drink!
You may have heard in the news that bees and other insect pollinator are in decline and the extremely high cost of pollinating these plants by other means could significantly increase the cost of fruit and vegetables.
Bumblebees are great pollinators and as well as having a key role in producing much of the food that we eat, they also help pollinate many wildflowers. Without this pollination many of these plants would not produce seeds, resulting in declines in both abundance and distribution for a range of species. As these plants are often the basis of complex food chains, it is easy to imagine how other wildlife such as other insects, birds and mammals would all suffer if bees disappeared.
Bumblebees only feed on flowers so they need far more plants than equivalent species which also eat leaves or roots. Many of our rarer bumblebee species don’t forage more than 1km from the nest so require an area that is both flower-rich and diverse in different flowers to sustain each colony of 50-100 bumblebees throughout the year.
Bee The Change activities
If your Cub Pack are inspired to take action for the environment, they can make their Promise to the Planet to ‘Bee the Change’ and make their local area more bumblebee friendly.
Some activity ideas for Cubs that can help bumblebees, with suggestions for links to Cubs Activity badges, are:
Plant some bee-friendly plants in pots or ground to flower between March and September to provide food and habitat for bumblebees. Flowers are rich in pollen and nectar which bees can easily access throughout the year. Bumblebees love the fragrant, flowery tops of herbs – marjoram, thyme, sage, chives, mint and rosemary – and ensure they are planted in a sunny location. (Gardener Activity Badge part 3)
Sign up for BeeWalk, the national recording scheme to monitor the abundance of bumblebees across the UK, at Home | BeeWalk Survey Scheme. Volunteers use basic bumblebee identification knowledge and an hour or so every month to walk a fixed route of about a mile (you choose where it goes) and submit their sightings. (Gardener Activity Badge part 5; Animal Carer Item 2a.; Community Impact Staged Activity Badge Item 3.; Naturalist Activity Badge items 1 & 2)
Bumblebees make their nests in Spring but are picky where they nest. You can make them welcome in your outdoor space by putting up a bird box (popular with tree bumble bees) with nesting material inside; installing a hedgehog box which may also be used as a bumblebee home in summer; leave a small section of lawn to grow wild - this can provide ground-nesting bumblebee species with space to nest beneath the long grass; or make a DIY underground bumblebee nest by following this step-by-step guide:
You will need:
Terracotta flowerpot (more than 20cm wide)
Flexible pipe (more than 20mm in diameter and between 30–50cm long)
Piece of slate/tile or a matching tray for the flowerpot (to make a rain cover for the nest)
A handful of nesting material, like dried moss, old wool or used pet hamster or rabbit bedding
Square of chicken wire
1. Put a few holes along the pipe’s underside – so any water getting in can leak away.
2. Make a shallow hole that the nest will sit in, and a trench for the pipe.
3. Wearing gloves, curl the edges of the chicken wire downwards to make a platform, and place in the hole so that the platform is raised slightly above the bottom of the hole.
4. Lay the pipe along the trench to the top of the platform.
5. Place the nesting material on the platform.
6. Place the upside-down flowerpot over the top to cover the nest, sinking it into the shallow hole, and then fill around it with soil and fill in the trench.
7. Make sure the entrance hole to the pipe is still open, and level with the ground.
8. Put a few small stones on the top of the upturned pot, and then place the tile on top - this will let air in but keep rain out. Wait to see if bumblebees use your homemade nest site in the spring!
Don’t take a peek inside the nest once it is set up - you don’t want to disturb any nesting bumblebees – but if you watch quietly, you may see bumblebees going in and out of the entrance hole. (Naturalist Activity Badge item 4d)
For lots more information on bumblebees, activities and resources, visit bumblebeeconservation.org