Bees in this context includes the main pollinator, the honeybee, but also the bumblebees and solitary bees. Approximately one third of the food we eat relies on the pollination service of bees. In fact, about 85 % of all the different types of crops grown in the EU rely on pollinating insects and this takes in fruit and vegetables. How much more mundane our diet would be if we had to rely on wind pollinated grain crops.
Bees face three huge challenges in today's world. Firstly, reduction in their food supply due to loss of habitat and large areas of monoculture crops. Secondly, the use of agrochemicals: pesticides are used in reduce the pest and parasite burden on certain crops, but bees can be affected by feeding on the nectar of treated plants; and herbicides reduce the number of wildflowers that bees can feed on in grass pastures. Thirdly, there has been an increase in the number of pests and pathogens across the world that affect bees. The main pest has been the Varroa mite which moved host from the Eastern honeybee to the Western honeybee and has spread almost worldwide. This large parasite sucks the bee’s blood, haemolymph, but more seriously injects large numbers of pathogenic viruses into the bee making them very sick.
Bees gather nectar and pollen from plants. The nectar is a dilute sugar solution which the bee uses for carbohydrate and energy. It converts nectar to that remarkable tasting honey and the pollen is the main source of protein needed to make more bees. As bees live in a colony of up to 40,000 individuals, they need plenty of food and make up large stores of honey to feed the colony through the winter.
There has been a decline in bee and pollinator numbers worldwide. This came to the public's attention when large numbers of managed colonies died off in the United States for no apparent reason in what was called “Colony Collapse”.
The BBVA are launching the "Bee Friendly Practice Project". The idea is to make your practice "Bee Friendly" which will engage the veterinary staff and the clients. By joining the BBVA as a practice member you will receive a "Bee Friendly" pack. This contains packets of native UK wildflower seeds which could be sold though the practice; or would possibly be even better if practices gave them to interested clients. Information sheets, window stickers, mouse mat, flower bed sign, children's stickers will all add to practice being “Bee Friendly” and will hopefully help to increase footfall by them regularly coming to the practice for additional Bee Friendly goodies that we will be providing in due course. BBVA Beef Friendly practices will receive an e-newsletter four times a year which will have information and interesting facts about bees. The BBVA greatly appreciate Mr Fothergill's generosity in supplying 5,000 free packets of wildflower seeds, one for every UK practice.
As a recently formed organisation, the BBVA is committed to working together to promote awareness and education in the science of bee health, evidence based medicine and management.