The importance of diversity of wildlife in food production - focus on bees
The importance of diversity of wildlife, habitats in the countryside, the food industry and looking after the Bees.
Recently I was invited to the Bumblebee conservation trust at Hauser and Wirth Somerset where I listened to the founder Gill Perkins about the importance of bees and the decline of the bumblebee population in the UK but more particularly the effect in the food industry.
As a cookery school I use honey as part of an ingredient in my dishes and as a food manufacturer based in Somerset, I was intrigued about the role the bees have in food production.
Last year I asked my husband to change the way the front lawn was used ( I wanted it to have a purpose).
It was perfect timing as I have over the 12 months developed a wild flower meadow to attract the wild life into an unused area. I wanted to create an space where nature can feel comfortable and have a use for the field that fits within the landscape.
Over the years I’ve also been working on the composting by recycling the vegetable waste in both the cookery school and Bini ready meals www.binifinefoods.com businesses and have been successful in creating lush, rich compost for the vegetables in the garden. Again to look at the recycling of waste and ecosystem I will blog about it on a later date. Back to bees.
Since the change of use of the paddock, we have seen roe deer, a fox, acquired a resident pheasant (aka Rupee), three hedgehogs, butterflies, dragon flies, various native bees, owls, bats, toads and numerous birds which is just amazing.
I’m sure there are many more I’ve not mentioned however it’s a great to see the impact of the small change we have done.
We decided to let the area grow and create a pathway so we can walk around the five sections and see what we have as a way of flora to attract bees to the area. We have noticed that each section has different moisture levels and shade. We have identified and seen different colours appear since April (mainly white) and now yellow being prominent in May. What will happen in June - October?
Here are some of the flora we have managed to identify in our wild life paddock:-
- Cow parsley
- Lady smock
- Dog rose
- Honey suckle
- Wild strawberries
To help things along, we have bought a few bee loving plants, divided up some from others areas of the garden and scattered poppy seeds which I dried off from last year; to help with diversity and encourage the bees to collect the pollen (protein rich source) and nectar (sugar rich source) they need.
There’s a massive compost heap of grass which is perfect for the queen bumblebee to hibernate.
Our local garden centre has some oxy daisies, cosmos, euphorbia, iris, chive, acres (for colour in the autumn) and thistles, . I’m loving it already and feel excited about the prospect of a beautiful space.
I wanted to buy flowers with colour and that open so the bees can collect the pollen and nectar. Honeysuckle and sunflowers. Alliums perfect to collect pollen and not waste vital flight-energy.
In our structured garden we have native English lavender, foxgloves, herbs such as rosemary, oregano, chives, mint, thyme, solomon’s seal are all present.
Here are some Bumble bee fast facts to share:-
There are 270 bumblebee species genus Bombus
- China and India are the most diverse areas in the Himalayas
- In the UK we have 27 species
- Different bumblebee have short or long tongues allowing them to forage on different plants
- Long or short faces for identification
- The queen and worker bumblebees -Store pollen on their hind legs which are hair like pollen baskets the bee mixes the pollen and nectar and mixed the two on the hind legs
- Bees warm themselves up by shivering their flight muscles so they can forage in cooler temperatures
- Bumblebee workers can carry up to 77% of their own body weight in pollen and nectar.
Importance of pollination in food production
In Somerset we are well known for cider production. The trees require pollination to produce the required apples, cheddar strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and tomatoes and many more fruits and vegetables such as peas, beans, aubergines require pollination so without the help of our bees