Our bees are in critical danger. Human action endangers them. Saving our pollinators is one of the most important things to consider when it comes to creating a sustainable and eco-friendly future. But why are bees in danger, and what can polytunnel gardeners do to help?
Problems Faced By Bees:
Pesticides & other Pollutants
The use of harmful pesticides and other pollutants in non-organic farming and gardening is one of the key issues for bees. Pesticides such as neonicotinoids are applied to crops to control and kill the pests that plague them.
These harmful chemicals act on a bees central nervous system – making them confused and unable to feed and eventually killing them. Seeds coated in these substances grow into plants that will continue to poison bees and other pollinators as they grow.
These poisons remain toxic in the environment for a long time – harming wildlife and also contaminating soil and waterways and air nearby. While some of the most harmful substances have now been banned in some parts of the world, sadly, many are still in use.
Changing land use, growing cities, and intensive, mono-crop agriculture are also all significant threats to a range of different bees. Wilderness areas, meadows and hedgerows are being lost and this has had a huge impact on all wildlife – including bees. Habitat loss makes it harder for bees to find food and shelter.
Biodiversity is crucial to a healthy ecosystem – without it, every part of those ecosystems can begin to suffer – not just the bees, but people too.
The Varroa Mite
Honey bees also face another threat: the varroa mite. The Varroa mite attaches itself to a honey bee and sucks its blood. These pests can spread through a hive, bringing with them viruses and disease. Once they get into a hive, varroa mites can kill a whole colony is just a couple of years. They have been found to be one of the leading causes of colony collapse disorder in North America. Sadly, an infestation can also make honey bees more susceptible to the toxic effects of the pesticides and other pollutants mentioned above.
What Polytunnel Gardeners Can Do For Bees
- Garden organically and avoid the use of any harmful products in our polytunnels.
- Work to improve biodiversity in and around your polytunnel.
- Plant or sow some cottage garden flowers that bees will love. (Try to provide blooms that will provide nectar for bees all year round.)
- Make sure there is a water source for bees in your garden. (A garden pond with a shallow, pebble beach area at one side is ideal – the pebbles in shallow water will allow bees to get water safely.) Placing a shallow water container with small pebbles in it in your polytunnel will help bees drink safely.
- Buy or make a ‘bee hotel’ for solitary bees to make their home.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.