May 25 2022

Honey, I love you: saving the West of England’s bees

I OFTEN say that the relationship between bees and flowers is best described as a 100-million-year-old whirlwind romance.

In this country, around 500,000 of our favourite pollinators play Cupid to flowering plants, busily collecting pollen and in the process becoming love’s messenger.

But nature’s great honeys, the true flora and fauna Romeo and Juliet, are going through something of a rough patch. In the UK, habitat loss and bee-harming pesticide use mean we have already lost around 13 species of bee since 1900, and another 35 are facing the same fate.

That’s bad news for the West of England. Not only do bees pollinate trees, whose oxygen we breathe, and which mitigate the climate crisis we face, but about one in three mouthfuls we eat depends on them, including those summer favourites like strawberries and cider. And without these industrious insects, it would cost £1.8 billion a year to pollinate our crops. Bees really are our region’s unsung heroes.

When something as precious as our bees and other pollinators are under threat, we need to do everything we can to save them and ensure this age-old romance endures. Thankfully, the West of England Combined Authority I lead is getting on with the job of relationship-mending.

In May, I was delighted to launch the first-ever Bee Bold Awards to showcase the region’s very best “bee buddies”.

This is a crucial step as we look to become the bee and pollinator capital of the whole country. From shops to schools, farms to factories, in offices and warehouses, all pollinator-loving groups are encouraged to take part.

I know there are amazing organisations of all sizes in our region doing their bit to support our pollinator pals. Organisations like Bradley Stoke’s Natracare, who built their very own ‘bee garden’ which has become home to pollinating superstars including moths, bumblebees, damselflies and more. Or Avonmouth’s GENeco, whose new blooming wildflower meadows and ‘pollinator pond’ are but two recent bee-friendly actions from this bee-mad company.

Or how about Agency UK, in Bath, who have reintroduced the nation’s favourite pollinator to the area for the first time in 80 years?

These are just three organisations going above and beyond to support the region’s food heroes which I had the pleasure of visiting to launch the Bee Bold awards. I know there are many more who do so much good, and with these awards, we’re going to give them the recognition they richly deserve.

If we all took a moment to look at the insects buzzing in our garden, we’d see that romance really isn’t dead. And with the actions the West of England Combined Authority is taking on bees, we’re going to ensure we keep that flame well and truly alive.