Why you should spare a thought for the bumble bee

Man might be at the top of the food chain, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link – which is why we should all spare a thought for bumble bees. Our latest app of the month is Blooms for Bees, and it’s a good place to start…

Einstein is often quoted as saying that if we had no bees, then it wouldn’t be long before mankind perished as well.

That is, of course, complete bunkum. There’s no evidence that Einstein said anything of the sort. There is, however, evidence that a group of French beekeepers said that he said it.

Attributing the quote to the great scientist might be a bit underhand, but it serves to prove a point. Mankind wouldn’t perish without bees, but our diet would certainly be much more limited. For a start, there are other pollinating insects, and then there are root crops, meat fed on grass, and food based on things not pollinated by insects – any kind of grass, for example, which includes cereal crops and things made from them.

But do we want to go that way? Do we want to trample on our biodiversity just because we don’t realise the harm we’re doing? Of course not. The French beekeepers knew that. But it’s also true that we can’t carry on guzzling without thought for tomorrow. We need to understand more about the world, and be a bit more simpatico with it.

That’s where Bees for Blooms comes in. It’s a citizen science project with the objective of boosting gardening for bumblebees. (They’re not the kind the beekeepers keep, which are another species of bees altogether, but the principle is just the same) It’s encouraging people to discover which bumblebee species visit gardens and allotments, and which flowers are their favourites.

Blooms for Bees says there are 25 species of bumblebee in the UK. Sixty years ago the number would have been 27, but two species have become extinct in the meantime. The reason? Well, it’s largely down to intense farming, which reduced the availability of the flowers they fed on.

Gardens and allotments offer us an amazing opportunity to create vibrant flower-rich habitats to support these vital pollinators, says Blooms for Bees. The app, available from the web site here, will help fill in gaps in our knowledge of which bumblebee species visit gardens and allotments, and which flowers are the most important sources of nectar and pollen for them.

By surveying the flowers growing in your garden or allotment, you’ll be helping to develop a better understanding of which flowers bumblebees like to visit. Blooms for Bees believes data generated by the project will help develop the understanding of bumblebee foraging in gardens and allotments, and improve recommendations about which flowers we should grow more of.

And that will help to achieve the objective of the French beekeepers’ with their Einstein attribution, which was clearly to think about the bees and our lives more in harmony with them.

Now, that has nothing to do with expense management software, which is the reason we’re in business – but we’d be the first to admit that, important though it is, there’s more to life than money.

They say Man cannot live by bread alone, but if we’re not prepared to help the bees, we might find that’s exactly what we might have to do…