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World Bee Day: A British beekeeper’s guide to protecting the essential insects

(PA)
(PA)

Adding hanging baskets to your home and letting the lawn grow are two key ways you can help save the bees, according to a British beekeeper.

Nicola Reed, 56, has been keeping bees for a decade, and started making honey whisky, vodka and rum for her company, Beeble, three years ago.

Formerly an art teacher, Mrs Reed said she fell in love with “the harmonious buzz of the bees” after her husband was unexpectedly gifted a hive for his birthday.

The mother and businesswoman has 10 hives in her garden in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, and she spoke with the PA news agency on World Bee Day about why bee populations have declined in the UK, and what can be done to help.

Explaining why bee populations have declined, she said: “More pesticides are being used in our country.

“Since we left the European Union (EU), Brexit has actually meant that we’re less strict about using pesticides.

“Our Government has recently given permission for thiamethoxam to be used on sugar beet, and it’s deadly poisonous for bees.

“We also use pesticides in our gardens and we have less green space for bees to forage – and the varroa mite which came to our shores in 2003 is affecting our bees very badly.”

Beyond banning pesticides, Mrs Reed said people can protect bees in their local area by letting flowers grow on their lawns, and city-dwellers can attach hanging baskets to their homes.

She said: “Not mowing the lawn is essential.

“Dandelions and daisies are great foraging for bees, and for solitary bees to nest in, just to give bees more of a space to be in rather than a clean-cut lawn.

“Keeping plants, keeping window boxes and hanging baskets, plant pots – they’re all great for bees to forage.”

Mrs Reed began her trade after her husband – who was scared of bees – was gifted the hive, and she took a beekeeping course in the Cotswolds.

She said: “The harmonious buzz of the bees and watching them in the hives attracted me to them. I knew then that I wanted to keep bees.”

Mrs Reed said her husband has also since been converted – with two hives on the roof of his office in Covent Garden, central London, showing how bees can be kept anywhere.

For people who want to bring bees to their gardens, the Wildlife Trusts recommends planting pollen-friendly flowers suitable for each season.

This includes primrose and aubretia in spring, honeysuckle, lavender and yarrow in summer, and ivy, hyssop and ice plants in the autumn.

Almost 90% of wild plants and 75% of leading global crops depend on animal pollination, mostly by bees, according to the WWF.

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