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Jean Vernon

Jean Vernon Garden Writer/Feature Writer West Country

  • Date Joined: 01 Jul 2008

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Trees for bees

Posted by Jean Vernon on 26 May 2009 at 01:15 PM

As gardeners we are all aware of the vital role that bees play in nature.

We are also very well placed to do alot to support the ailing bee population. The jury is still officially out on what is the real problem affecting our honey bees, but it is clear that bee disease and pollution are playing their part.

Gardeners are constantly being encouraged to grow pollen and nectar rich plants to feed the bees, especially anything that flowers very early in the year when the bees are starting to forage.

 One exhibit in the Great Pavilion provided plenty of ideas of what trees a gardener could plant to support these vital creatures.

Trees for Bees, was presented by the British Beekeepers Association.

"We've got a tree that flowers for each month of the bees foraging year, so that they can provide continuous forage for the bees throughout the year. So we start off with the mimosa it provides mainly pollen but a little bit of nectar. Then we've got alder, which has masses of pollen, which is fantastic early in the year when the bees are feeding their brood, and then Amelanchier, which is pretty, and lots of nectar, and then sorbus, a white beam, lime, sweet chestnut, koelreuteria and then the Chinese bee tree, tetrodium, which flowers in September. We reckon that 5 or 6 trees provide more forage for bees than an acre of wildflower meadow. It's so much easier for people to plant a tree than to try and grow masses of flowers. We think gardeners are really well placed to help bees. Bees need gardeners is the theme of our exhibit," a BBKA supporter told me.


Helping support the bees shouldn't be a party political matter, but there was one politician who has taken up the cause at the show helping to spread the word. Vince Cable is a patron of his local apiary and has been very vocal in his support for the cause.

"I first got interested in this 6 or 7 years ago when the apiary had an open day, they invited in the residents and I was invited as the local MP.  I hadn't previously realised,  how important bees were for the ecosystem and for commercial agriculture and what the threats were and I think they were just beginning to appreciate the varroa mite and the damage that was being done," he told me.

"People have gradually cottoned on that this is a very very big issue that affects all of us. There is a group of MP's who've got very interested in this matter, myself, Ian Gibson who is a scientist and an MP for Norwich and one or two others and we are trying to raise the profile of this in parliament, there is this issue now about the £10 million pledged by the government for bee research but the impression I get is that although the government has done the right thing in waking up to the problem, they are unable to make up their minds what to do with the money. The BBKA understand very clearly where the priorities are, it is bee health, they have a costed programme, but there is a kind of bureaucratic battle going on, and we have to make sure we cut through that and make sure the money goes where it should go."




on 26 May 2009 at 03:34 PM


bees bees bees

on 26 May 2009 at 03:34 PM

Jean Vernon said:

Hi Clarebell,

Did you mean one bee or three bees? Hope there are a few more than that in your garden.

Thanks for your comments.

on 26 May 2009 at 09:07 PM

lotusleaf said:

My garsen in India is full of flowers and plenty of bees throughout the year, but there is not a single beehive!

on 29 May 2009 at 11:39 AM

Jean Vernon said:

Hello Lotus Leaf. Bees travel several miles in search of pollen and nectar, so even though you don't have a beehive there maybe one or more within their flying range. You may also be very lucky to have some wild bee colonies living near you that are pollinating your flowers. Here in the UK our beekeepers have seen tremendous losses in their bee colonies. At a recent bee keepers meeting I attended, over a third of the bee keepers had lost one hive or more over the last winter. Similar stories are being told across Europe. Gardeners can play a major part in supporting their local bees. It sounds like your garden has plenty of plant biodiversity to keep the local bees fed and watered. Great news. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

on 29 May 2009 at 04:04 PM

lotusleaf said:

Hello Jean,Thanks. What you said is right. There are a number of huge beehives hanging from a big school building 2km from my house. But I'm afraid the school authorities will destroy the hives as soon as the school reopens. They are scared that the bees might sting the children.

on 30 May 2009 at 10:42 AM

Jean Vernon said:

What a shame, can you do anything to persuade them otherwise? Yes bees do sting, but usually when disturbed, provoked and although it hurts, it is rarely fatal (except for someone with an allergy). Bees are so precious and in such decline, here in the UK anyway, so anything any of us can do to save a colony or two is a major step forward. Do you have a local bee keeper that can take the hives away?? In the UK there is a surge in thefts of bee hives because they are so precious.

Have you got room for them? Are they wild bees or man made hives? Please, if you can rescue them it would be such a brilliant thing to do. Over a third of our food crops are pollinated by bees. We'd all love to know how you get on. It might only take a phone call or two, but you will make such a difference.

Hoping you can help.

on 30 May 2009 at 12:32 PM

lotusleaf said:

The beehives are huge and made by wild bees. I shall talk to the principal of the school and try to pursuade her to let them be. Thanks for the suggestion. I have noticed that the beehives in India are also becoming less. It must be a worldwide phenomenon.If the school authorities insist on removing the hives, I'll contact the forest department to relocate them somewhere safe.

on 31 May 2009 at 05:29 AM

Jean Vernon said:

That's brilliant news Lotusleaf. Thank you for your efforts. I know the bees would thank you themselves if they could. So here's a HUGE thank you from everyone who appreciates these wild and magical creatures. Bees are so precious and any that are surviving in the wild without human intervention may just hold the key to the survival of bees en masse.

THANK YOU. Perhaps you could ask the principal of the school to teach the children a little bit about how important bees are and what their role is in nature as pollinators. By showing them that people do care about bees and then relocating them somewhere safe, it would be a wonderful lesson for everyone. Let us know what happens PLEASE.

on 31 May 2009 at 10:34 PM

uberVU - social comments said:

This post was mentioned on Twitter by HelpSaveBees: Did you know? 5-6 Trees provide more forage for #bees than an acre of wildflower meadow!

on 26 Feb 2010 at 03:50 AM

jan said:

maybe a bit old now but still valuable info. thanks I'm going to look into this further well I only have a small garden.

on 28 Apr 2012 at 05:09 PM