I've just been on a Bumblebee ID course! It was run through the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and was called 'Introduction to the Bumblebees of the Ridgeway - ID and Ecology'. Now, whilst I was interested in finding out more about bees, I did not envisage for one moment that I would be excited about catching bees and identifying them - but well, that's what happened.
After an informative talk about the current situation for bees and a crash course in bee identification we were handed out nets, magnifying glasses and plastic tubs. Well, my hunter gene, or maybe the hunter-gatherer gene - whatever it was, was suddenly activated! With nets alert, we were creeping amongst the plants like David Attenborough prodigies, keen to be the first one to catch a bee.
Having been taught the technique of lowering our net over the bee, then holding the net upwards and snaring the bee in the tub I was keen to see if I could actually do it - without going into a 'its gonna sting me' panic! - we all know that one right - when a bee saunters into the classroom and the class go wild - some screeching and hiding under desks, and the rest trying to swoop it out the window with a ruler! Well, not being surrounded by panicky kids helped and my calm demeanour worked and I bagged my first catch. However my triumphant captive 'bee' turned out to be a yellow and black fly (cheating I say, for flies to impersonate bees! who knew?).
After that first sneaky fly, I did actually catch quite a few bees and perfected the catching routine quite professionally. As we wandered along the Thameside wild area we saw a surprising variety of bees. We enjoyed working out which bee was which by close-up feature spotting with our bee picture grids. An hour or so later we were all totally relaxed, we'd bonded over bumbles and all knew a darn site more than when we started - about the bees, the Thameside area and each other. What a great afternoon.
So, if you're curious to find out more about bees and you fancy a fun afternoon - pop along to the next bee ID workshop. I won't say that I'm a fully fledged bumbleologist yet but I am definitely ordering my own net and am looking forward to showing off my new knowledge to my kids on our upcoming camping holiday. They'll either be super impressed and I won't even get a chance to hold the net or it'll be 'Mum, put the net away and act normal' Let's see which!
Enhance the understanding of bumblebee ecology and conservation
Increase the quality and quantity of bumblebee habitat.
Inspire and enable a diverse range of people to take action for bumblebees.
Be an effective and sustainable organisation.
On the website, the learning zone is packed with activities for children. The Bumble-Friendly Schools section provides information on positive actions that will make schools a better place for bumblebees and other wild pollinators. Schools complete a set of bumblebee-friendly actions and provide evidence to earn Bumblebee-friendly Schools accreditation.
Attracting Bees to your garden
Bees in the UK - the Good News!
One recent piece of good news about bees in the UK is that the number of beekeepers in the country is on the rise. According to a report by the British Beekeepers Association, membership has increased by 7% over the past year, with more people taking up beekeeping as a hobby or a profession.
Another positive development is the UK government's decision to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been linked to declining bee populations. The ban came into effect in 2019, and many environmental groups and beekeepers have welcomed the move as a step in the right direction for protecting bees.
Additionally, the UK has also designated more areas as "pollinator zones," which are areas with habitats and resources that support bee populations. These zones provide vital food and shelter for bees and other pollinators, and their expansion is seen as a positive step towards protecting and promoting bee populations.
Finally, there have been some successful efforts to reintroduce native species of bees in certain areas of the UK. For example, the short-haired bumblebee, which had been extinct in the UK for almost 30 years, has been successfully reintroduced to the Kent countryside through a joint effort by conservation organizations and local farmers.
Bees in the UK - the Bad News
Unfortunately, there have also been some recent negative news reports about bees in the UK. One of the biggest concerns is the continued decline in wild bee populations, with some species facing the threat of extinction. Habitat loss and fragmentation, pesticide use, disease, and climate change are all contributing factors to this decline.
Another issue is the spread of diseases and pests that affect honeybees, such as the Varroa mite, which can weaken and kill colonies. Despite efforts to control these pests, they continue to pose a significant threat to bee populations in the UK.
In addition, some studies have shown that bee populations in certain areas of the country are still being exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides, despite the ban. This highlights the need for better monitoring and enforcement of pesticide regulations to protect bees and other pollinators.
Climate change:The impact of climate change on bee populations is a growing concern. As temperatures continue to rise, it can affect the timing of flowering plants, which can reduce the availability of food for bees. In addition, extreme weather events such as heatwaves, floods, and droughts can also have a negative impact on bee populations.
Habitat loss: The loss of habitat for bees is another major concern. The conversion of natural habitats such as wildflower meadows and hedgerows to agricultural or urban land use has reduced the availability of food and nesting sites for bees. This, in turn, can contribute to declines in bee populations.
Invasive species: Invasive species such as the Asian hornet and the small hive beetle pose a significant threat to bee populations in the UK. These species can outcompete native species for food and resources, and can also spread diseases that can be fatal to bee colonies. Efforts are being made to control these species, but their spread remains a concern for beekeepers and conservationists.
In the UK, several species of bees are considered endangered or extinct. Here are some examples:
Great Yellow Bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) - Endangered
These species are under threat from habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and other factors. Efforts are underway to conserve and protect these species and their habitats.
Resources for schools: learning about bees
Here are 7 good resources for schools and teachers to help children learn about bees:
The Bee Cause: The Bee Cause is a UK-based charity that works to educate young people about bees and their importance. They offer a range of educational resources for schools, including lesson plans, activity sheets, and interactive online games.
The British Beekeepers Association: The British Beekeepers Association is a national charity that provides support and education for beekeepers in the UK. They also offer a range of resources for schools, including educational videos, fact sheets, and classroom activities.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust: The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is a UK-based charity that works to protect bumblebees and their habitats. They offer a range of educational resources for schools, including curriculum-linked lesson plans and online activities.
The Wildlife Trusts: The Wildlife Trusts is a UK-based charity that works to protect and restore wildlife and their habitats. They offer a range of resources for schools, including curriculum-linked lesson plans and activities focused on pollinators such as bees.
The Royal Horticultural Society: The Royal Horticultural Society is a UK-based charity that promotes gardening and horticulture. They offer a range of educational resources for schools, including lesson plans and activities focused on pollinators such as bees.
The Buglife Trust: The Buglife Trust is a UK-based charity that works to protect insects and their habitats. They offer a range of resources for schools, including lesson plans and activities focused on bees and other pollinators.
The National Geographic Kids website: The National Geographic Kids website is an online resource that offers educational articles, videos, and games focused on wildlife and the environment. They have a range of resources focused on bees and pollinators that are suitable for primary school-aged children.
The Bee Friendly Trust: The Bee Friendly Trust is a UK-based charity that works to educate people about the importance of pollinators and how to create pollinator-friendly habitats. They offer a range of resources for schools, including lesson plans, activity sheets, and educational videos.
The Woodland Trust: The Woodland Trust is a UK-based charity that works to protect and restore woodland habitats. They offer a range of resources for schools, including lesson plans and activities focused on pollinators such as bees.
The Eden Project: The Eden Project is an educational charity and visitor attraction in Cornwall, UK, that focuses on environmental sustainability. They offer a range of educational resources for schools, including lesson plans and activities focused on pollinators such as bees, as well as opportunities to visit their on-site beekeeping facilities.
Inspirational things children have done to help bees
Here are some specific things that children in the UK have done that have had a positive impact on bees:
Lily-Rose from Manchester started a campaign to plant more wildflowers in her community to help bees. She managed to convince her local council to plant a wildflower meadow in a nearby park, which is now a haven for bees.
The pupils at St. Peter's Primary School in Gloucestershire created a "bee garden" on the school grounds, planting a variety of bee-friendly flowers and plants. They also built a bug hotel and installed a beehive, which they now use to make honey.
A group of children from a school in Edinburgh wrote letters to their local council, urging them to reduce the use of pesticides in public parks and green spaces. The council listened to their concerns and changed their policy, which has helped to protect bees and other pollinators.
A boy named Harry from Somerset started selling jars of honey made by his family's bees to raise money for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. He has now raised thousands of pounds for the charity and has inspired others to get involved in helping bees.
The pupils at Ash Green School in Warwickshire created a "bee corridor" by planting bee-friendly flowers and plants along a disused railway line near their school. This has provided a vital source of food and habitat for bees and other pollinators in the local area.
A girl named Elsie from London created a bee-themed art installation in her local park to raise awareness about the importance of bees. Her artwork featured a giant bumblebee made from recycled materials, surrounded by a garden of wildflowers.
The pupils at St. Jude's Catholic Primary School in Hampshire started a beekeeping club, where they learn about beekeeping and caring for bees. They now have several beehives on the school grounds and have even started selling their own honey to raise money for the school.
A group of children from a school in Bristol created a "bee highway" by planting bee-friendly flowers and plants along a road near their school. This has provided a crucial link between existing habitats for bees and has helped to increase bee populations in the local area.
The pupils at St. John's Catholic Primary School in Liverpool created a "bee hotel" by filling a wooden structure with bamboo canes and other materials that provide nesting sites for solitary bees. This has helped to increase the number of bees in the school grounds and has provided a valuable educational resource for the pupils.
A boy named Max from Sussex started a petition to ban neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been linked to declines in bee populations. His petition gained thousands of signatures and helped to raise awareness about the importance of protecting bees and other pollinators.
Communication and Language: Children will be learning new vocabulary related to bees and pollination, and will be encouraged to express themselves through bee-themed storytelling, role-play, and dance.
Physical Development: Activities such as gardening, sensory play, and music and movement help to develop children's fine and gross motor skills, balance, and coordination.
Personal, Social and Emotional Development: Children will be encouraged to work together, share resources, and show empathy towards bees and other living things.
Understanding the World: Children will be learning about the natural world, the importance of bees, and the role of humans in protecting the environment.
Expressive Arts and Design: Activities such as art and crafts, role-play, and music and movement encourage children to use their imagination, creativity, and self-expression.
Literacy: Children will be exposed to books, stories, and writing related to bees and pollination, which will help to develop their early literacy skills.
Mathematics: Activities such as exploring the different parts of a flower and conducting simple science experiments help to develop children's mathematical thinking skills, such as observation, pattern recognition, and problem-solving.
Here are ten inspirational and fun ways to link learning about bees to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum:
Bee-themed sensory play: Set up a sensory play area with bee-related items such as honeycombs, flowers, and bee toys. Encourage children to explore and play with the items, while learning about the different parts of a bee and how they collect pollen.
Bee-themed storytime: Read books about bees and pollinators, such as "The Very Greedy Bee" by Steve Smallman, "Bee: Nature's Tiny Miracle" by Patricia Hegarty, or "The Bee Book" by Charlotte Milner. Discuss the different roles of bees in the ecosystem and the importance of pollination.
Bee-friendly gardening: Encourage children to plant bee-friendly flowers and plants in the school or nursery garden. This provides a hands-on opportunity for children to learn about the different types of plants that bees like and how they help pollinators.
Bee-themed art and crafts: Create bee-themed art and crafts activities, such as making bee headbands, painting bee pictures, or making honeycomb collages. This allows children to use their creativity while learning about the role of bees in nature.
Bee dances: Teach children about the famous bee waggle dance, which bees use to communicate with each other about the location of food sources. Encourage children to create their own bee dances and share them with the group.
Honey tasting: Set up a honey tasting station and encourage children to taste different types of honey. Discuss the different flavours and colours of honey and where it comes from.
Beekeeper visits: Invite a local beekeeper to come and speak to the children about bees and beekeeping. This provides a unique opportunity for children to see real-life bees and learn about the work of a beekeeper.
Bee-themed role-play: Create a bee-themed role-play area, such as a honey shop or a bee colony. This allows children to use their imagination while learning about bees and their importance.
Bee-themed music and movement: Play bee-themed music and encourage children to move and dance like bees. This helps to develop their gross motor skills while learning about the movements of bees.
Bee-themed science experiments: Conduct simple science experiments with the children, such as exploring the different parts of a flower and learning about how bees pollinate them. This helps to develop their scientific thinking skills while learning about bees and their role in nature.
Identify and describe the basic structure of a variety of common flowering plants, including those that provide food for animals.
Explore the requirements of plants for life and growth, including the importance of water and nutrients.
Observe changes across the four seasons and describe how weather affects daily life.
Name and locate the world's seven continents and five oceans.
Use basic geographical vocabulary to refer to physical features, including beaches, hills, forests, rivers, and valleys.
Identify seasonal and daily weather patterns in the United Kingdom.
Read and listen to a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts that include information about bees, such as "The Very Greedy Bee" by Steve Smallman or "A First Book of Nature" by Nicola Davies.
Write descriptive sentences and poems about bees and their habitat.
Use counting and measuring skills to observe and record changes in the number of bees in a given area over time.
Use multiplication and division skills to explore the relationship between the number of bees and the amount of pollen produced by plants.
KS2 Curriculum links: learning about bees
The National Curriculum for KS2 also includes opportunities to learn about bees and their importance in the environment. Here are some examples for KS2:
Read and analyse non-fiction texts about the importance of bees and the ways in which humans can support their populations.
Write persuasive texts encouraging others to take action to support bee populations.
Collect and analyse data on the numbers and species of bees found in different habitats.
Use geometry skills to design and create bee-friendly habitats, such as bee hotels or pollinator gardens.
Describe how living things are classified into broad groups according to common observable characteristics and based on similarities and differences, including micro-organisms, plants, and animals.
Recognise that living things can be grouped in a variety of ways.
Describe the life cycle of flowering plants, including pollination, seed formation and seed dispersal.
Understand geographical similarities and differences through the study of human and physical geography of a region of the United Kingdom, a region in a European country, and a region within North or South America.
Understand the impact of climate change on the environment and human activity, and the actions that can be taken to mitigate it.
KS2 Art and Design:
Create illustrations of bees and their habitat using a range of media, such as paint, pastels, or collage.
Design and create bee-themed art installations for the school or local community.
By making links between learning about bees and other areas of the curriculum, teachers can provide a more comprehensive and engaging learning experience for their students. Additionally, by incorporating creative and hands-on activities, students can develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the importance of bees and their role in our ecosystem.
There are many flowering plants that can attract bees. Here are some of the best options:
Lavender: Bees are attracted to the nectar in lavender flowers, and the plant can bloom from early summer to late fall.
Sunflowers: These bright and beautiful flowers are irresistible to bees. They produce abundant pollen and nectar, making them a great choice for attracting bees.
Wildflowers: Native wildflowers are a great choice for attracting bees, as they provide a diverse range of nectar and pollen sources.
Coneflowers: Coneflowers, also known as echinacea, produce large, showy flowers that are irresistible to bees. They are also easy to grow and require little maintenance.
Borage: This herb produces blue, star-shaped flowers that are a favorite of bees. Borage is also edible and has medicinal properties.
Rosemary: This herb produces small, blue flowers that bees love. Rosemary is also a useful herb in the kitchen.
Salvia: Salvia produces beautiful, long-lasting flowers that are a favorite of bees. They also come in a variety of colors, making them a great addition to any garden.
Zinnias: Zinnias produce bright, colorful flowers that are attractive to bees. They are also easy to grow and come in a variety of sizes and colors.
Black-eyed Susan: This native wildflower produces bright, yellow flowers that are a favorite of bees. They are also easy to grow and require little maintenance.
Marigolds: Marigolds produce bright, colorful flowers that are attractive to bees. They are also easy to grow and can help repel pests in the garden.
Free seeds for schools planting bee-friendly plants
There are several organizations that provide free wildflower seeds for bees, including:
Bee Happy Plants and Seeds: This UK-based organization provides free wildflower seed packets for pollinators, including bees, upon request.
The Wildlife Trusts: This UK-based charity offers free wildflower seeds for bees and other pollinators as part of their #ActionForInsects campaign.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust: This UK-based organization provides free wildflower seed packets for bees and other pollinators upon request.
Seeds of Change: This US-based seed company offers a "bee-friendly" seed collection that includes wildflowers, and they often run promotions that include free seed packets for customers.
Save Our Monarchs: This US-based non-profit organization provides free wildflower seed packets to individuals and organizations who want to help support monarch butterflies and other pollinators, including bees
Friends of the Earth: This UK-based environmental charity offers free wildflower seed packets for bees and other pollinators as part of their #BeeCause campaign.
Grow Wild: This UK-based organization provides free wildflower seed kits for community groups, schools, and individuals who want to create bee-friendly habitats.
Buglife: This UK-based charity offers a variety of resources for creating bee-friendly habitats, including free wildflower seed packets for schools and community groups.
Pictorial Meadows: This UK-based company specializes in creating wildflower meadows and offers free seed samples to customers who want to create bee-friendly habitats.
Availability and eligibility for free seed programs may vary depending on location and other factors, so be sure to check with each organization for specific details on how to obtain free wildflower seeds for bees.
Resources for creating a bee-friendly garden: Garden plans and plant lists
You can find bee-friendly garden plans from a variety of sources. Here are a few places to start:
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has a "Garden for Wildlife" program that provides resources and tips for creating a bee-friendly garden. You can find garden plans, plant lists, and other helpful information on their website.
The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats. They offer resources on creating pollinator-friendly gardens, including plant lists and garden designs.
The Pollinator Partnership is another nonprofit organization that provides resources for creating pollinator habitats. Their website offers garden plans, plant lists, and other helpful information for creating a bee-friendly garden.
Your local gardening store or nursery may also have resources and recommendations for creating a bee-friendly garden. Ask them for advice on which plants and flowers are best suited for your region.
By using these resources, you can create a bee-friendly garden plan that is tailored to your specific location and the needs of the local bee population.