Bee survival crucial to food supply

A new BBC TV series aimed at highlighting the importance bees in food production is due to be aired this week.

Wild bees play a crucial role for farming in pollinating UK farming crops and in maintaining biodiversity in the rural environment.

They have filled the gap left by the traditional pollinators, honey bees, whose numbers have declined in recent years.

Honey bees are now only capable of supplying 34% of our crop pollination needs.

Many of the UK’s most valuable cropssuch as runner beans, apples and oilseed rape are now pollinated by wild bees.

Professor Simon Potts of Reading University (pictured), who takes part in the programme, estimates the value of pollination services to agriculture in the UK at several hundred million pounds per year.

Bees are under threat from pressures such as habitat loss, agricultural intensification, diseases and climate change. Professor Potts says that conservation action is needed now to reverse the decline of the insects.

He said, “The value of pollination services to agriculture in the UK is about £440 million per year, with the most valuable contributions made by wild bees rather than managed honeybees.

 “Strong conservation action is needed if we are to keep these essential elements of biodiversity.”

Insect pollnated crops are becoming increasingly important to UK agriculture and Professor Pott’s studies will be used to look at developments in effective pollination management on farms.

The BBC programme, headed by TV presenter and gardener Sarah Raven, examines the impact of pollinating insects on the life of the countryside, towns and gardens, and big cities.

You can watch Bees, Butterflies and Blooms on BBC 2 at 8pm on Wednesday 8 February.

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