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The Bee Cause some bee facts and stats

April 2012
General information bee videos
Honey bees have 6 legs, 2 compound eyes made up of thousands of tiny lenses
(one on each side of the head), 3 simple eyes on the top of the head, 2 pairs of
wings, a nectar pouch, and a stomach
The bee's brain is oval in shape and only about the size of a sesame seed, yet it
has remarkable capacity to learn and remember things and is able to make
complex calculations on distance travelled and foraging efficiency
In Ancient Greek, priestesses of the goddess Demeter were called Melissae
Melissa (or Mellisa) is a given name for a female child. The name comes from
the Greek word (melissa), "honey bee" (Apis Mellifera) and from
(meli), "honey"
St Valentine is the patron saint of bee-keepers
Bees store their venom in a sac attached to their stinger and only female bees
sting. That is because the stinger, called an ovipositor, is part of the female bees
reproductive design
Bees see all colours except the colour red
Bees have 5 eyes and can see ultra violet light
It would only take about one ounce of honey to fuel a honey bee to fly around
the world
Bees can fly for a kilometre or more collecting nectar. Some species of
bumblebee can travel up to 3 kilometres a day
19 species of bees make honey
12 honey bees work their whole life (a month to 3 months) to make a teaspoon
of honey
There are 19,500 bee species worldwide
Bees know if the Queen has died as they can no longer smell her pheromones
Bees' wings vibrate 11,400 times a minute - that's why they buzz.

Pollination and the value of bees

The honey bee (Apis Mellifera) "is arguably the most important pollinator of
agricultural crops" (Klein et al 2007)
As honey bees gather pollen and nectar for their survival, they pollinate crops
such as apples, cranberries, melons and broccoli. Some crops, including
blueberries and cherries, are 90-percent dependent on honey bee pollination;
one crop, almonds, depends entirely on the honey bee for pollination at bloom
Of the 100 crop species that provide most (90%) of the world's food, over 70 are
pollinated by bees
About 84% of plants & 76% of food production in Europe depends on pollination
done by bees
The 'ecosystem services' provided by bees are worth 15 billion per annum
World-wide the value of the pollination of trees and crops has most recently been
put at $190 billion a year
In UK alone crop pollination is worth 440 million a year (according to the
Governments Natural Environment White Paper, June 2011, page 9). Further, if
the UK has to replace the pollination services of bees, The cost of replacing bee
pollination with hand pollination is greater than the total market value of the
crops at over 1.8 billion per year (Friends of the Earth research by University of
Reading, April 2012))
Honey bees contribute over $14 billion to the value of U.S. crop production
It is often said that one in every three mouthfuls of our food we enjoy is thanks to
bees pollinating crops NB: Friends of the Earth tends not to use this because,
strictly, much of our diet is meat and fish which are either indirectly or
unconnected to bees and pollinators.
34% of the pollination is by honey bees and the rest by bumble and solitary bees
and other pollinators. (Ref:
British bees
There are over 250 species of wild bee in the UK (25 bumble bee species and
over 200 species of solitary bee so called because they do not live socially in
3 species of British bumble bee have become extinct since 1800
About 23 species of bee are on the official list of threatened species
British bumblebees
Britain had 25 species of bumblebee but 3 of these (the Apple, Cullens and the
short-haired bumble bee) are already extinct and others are threatened

There are 6 common types of bumblebee commonly found in British gardens the so called 'Big Six'
Unlike honey bees, bumblebees have short-lived colonies and a nest typically
lasts only a few months.
At the end of the cycle young fertile females (queens) go into hibernation
underground, and stay there for many months, to emerge the next spring when
each will found a new colony.
Normally the last of the 'big six' to be seen in garden in the autumn is the
ubiquitous 'Common Carder Bumblebee' (Bombus pascuorum), a relatively small
species, gingery brown, which can be seen in the South until early November if
the weather remains favourable.
Then there should be a gap of at least three months until the earliest emergence
of young bumblebee queens from hibernation the next spring.
One of the consistently early species in the spring is unsurprisingly called the
'Early Bumblebee' (Bombus pratorum). This species is also relatively small, with
two yellow bands and an orange tail. Several other species will also make an
appearance by March or April.
These include the very common 'Buff-tailed Bumblebee' (Bombus terrestris ssp.
audax). Queens of this sub-species tend to be large and wide, with a pale
peachy-buff coloured tail. Workers have a white tail. Sub-species audax is
confined to Britain and Ireland. If you cross the Channel you will find that in
Northern France B. terrestris queens have a white tail.
Foraging from Winter-flowering garden plants: Evidence from the last decade or
so suggests that in some areas of the UK the Buff-tailed Bumblebee is able to
maintain winter colonies in addition to its summer breeding cycle. It relies on
autumn and winter-flowering plants growing in gardens as a forage source. Prime
amongst these are Arbutus, and Clematis cirrhosa, from the Mediterranean area;
Mahonia and winter-flowering honeysuckles such as Lonicera fragrantissima,
from Eastern Asia; and Erica carnea, a winter-flowering heather from the
European Alps.
There are very few wild British plants that flower in the winter, and it seems that
those that do (e.g. Gorse) do not provide sufficient or suitable forage to support
winter bumblebee colonies. For this reason it is unlikely that winter colonies will
survive in the open countryside away from gardens.
Favourite flowers of bumblebees in autumn and winter:

Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree) in October

Lonicera fragrantissima (Winter Honeysuckle) in January
Erica carnea (Winter flowering Heather) in February
Mahonia hybrid in January.

Interestingly, there are many conspicuous winter-flowering plants that the bees
do not seem to use as a regular forage source, or only visit as a last resort. These
- Viburnum x bodnantense

Chimonanthus praecox
Jasminum nudicaule
Cornas mas
Iris unguicularis
Winter bedding plants such as pansies and polyanthus.

The fact that they do not seem to visit these may be because these plants do not
produce suitable nectar or pollen, or possibly it is inaccessible to the bees.
Where do bees go in winter?
Bumblebees: Colonies die out at the end of the summer. Only young fertile
females (queens) survive the winter, in hibernation in nooks and crannies under
the ground, in a deep sleep. The winter-active bumblebee colonies described are
an exception to this rule and seem to be a recent phenomenon in the UK
involving only 1 of our 24 species.
Solitary Bees: All adults die as soon as their period of mating and nest building is
over. For most species, this period is a window of activity lasting couple of
months or so in spring or summer. Different species are active at different
months, usually coinciding with the flowering of their main forage plants. Solitary
bees' offspring survive the winter as mature larvae, pupae, or as dormant young
adults (depending on species) in a state of suspended animation inside their nest
cells. Again depending on species these can be holes or tubes in wood, dead
stems, holes in sandy cliffs or in crumbly mortar, or holes or chambers
Honeybees: These are a domesticated species and in the UK are now almost
wholly dependent on human intervention. Colonies survive intact inside beehives
and can last for several years with help from a beekeeper. Feral colonies left to
their own devices (e.g. in hollow tree trunks) can also survive the winter but at
present many of them seem weakened by the Varroa mite and less able to
survive in the long term.
Good plants and trees for bees
Have no plant in your garden that you do not know to be useful to bees or
believe to be beautiful. William Morris
RHS Perfect for Pollinators - list of plants season by season:
British Bee Keepers Association leaflets:

Pauls top tips for planting

There's no shortage of good advice out there, books and gardening tips.
So I thought I'd boil it down to 5 top tips


Back British: Try to sow and grow native British seeds and plants and wildflowers.

Not all garden centres sell chemical free seeds but they are readily available by mail order from
places like: Garden Organic (based near Coventry), Laura's Organics, The English Cottage Garden
Nursery Ltd, FlowerScapes for urban sites; Habitat aid (where we have obtained our seeds for The
Bee Cause campaign) and Sutton's Seeds who now have a limited organic range.

2. Bee choosy: not all plants are the same; bees love plants with lots of nectar and easy to access
single (not double) flower heads.
Many popular plants sold in garden centres are bred so much that they no longer produce much
nectar or pollen for bees to collect. So they are pretty useful in the natural cycle of pollination and
sustaining bees' role in a functioning natural environment.

3. No fuss: Try to avoid popular but fussy hybrid plants like double-headed begonias, busy-lizzies
and bedding geraniums.
These may impress but they have been bred so much that they have little or no nectar or pollen for
Look for plants on the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list:

4. Mix it up: Like us, bees need food all year round. Help by sowing and growing flowers, herbs
shrubs and trees that create a succession of nectar and pollen - for instance, low growing crocus
in winter, single-headed dahlias, common lobelia and angelica in summer and Ivy in autumn.
A simple guide to planting by Maureen Little is here:

5. Trees for bees: Look up and see the bees on the tree. Many trees we pass by are great for bees
and other pollinators.
Willow, hawthorn, hazel and horse chestnut are also great. And dont cut down your mature Ivy - its a
vital autumn food source. So when you see trees, think bees.