Conservation starts with the letter bee...
Published: Apr 12, 2019These buzzing little insects are very important to the ecosystem and conservation from the zoo to your own back garden!
Conservation starts with the letter bee…
Newquay Zoo’s conservation projects work to protect many incredible species, such as the Critically Endangered Sulawesi crested black macaques, from the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Yet protecting wildlife truly starts from the ground up, with an insect we’re all familiar with - the humble little bee. Bees pollinate one third of all the food grown in the UK, whether it’s eaten by humans or animals. As such, these buzzing little insects are the foundation of pretty much all ecosystems, so they’re also the foundation of meaningful conservation from the zoo to your own back garden.
What makes bees so important?
Pollinators are key components in ecosystems worldwide, as they are vital for the survival of wild and domestic plants that the rest of the food chain depend on. As they visit plants and flowers, they transfer pollen and fertilise them. This keeps the reproduction cycle going for all the food that herbivores eat, which provides food for all the carnivores.
Bees are not the only pollinators - other insects like butterflies and wasps also carry pollen from flower to flower, as do some birds and even bats and lizards. That being said, bees are responsible for pollinating up to 80% of Europe’s wildflowers, as well as visiting 90% of the world’s leading crops, making them the most effective pollinators on the whole.
Sadly, recent years have seen bee populations decline at worrying rates. Losing bees jeopardises all other wildlife from sloths to lions, as fewer bees means fewer plants and fewer sources of food, which has a devastating knock-on effect all the way through the food chain. Fewer bees and fewer plants also means there's less natural habitat, causing many animals to lose their homes as well as their food. To protect all the wonderful animals at the zoo as well as throughout Britain, we need to make sure we protect bees, too.
How to practice backyard conservation by protecting bees
Thankfully, you can do your part in protecting bees at home - no matter whether you have a big beautiful garden or a little window box. Growing plants that bees love or simply putting water out for them are two easy ways to take care of our buzzing friends. Bees love native wildflower meadows, but Britain has lost 97% of them since the 1930s, so if you have space for a flower bed or two, then fill them with gorgeous flowers like dahlias and lavender. Your garden doesn’t have to be complicated, either - flowers with a single layer are perfect for bees.
Practising conservation for all the beautiful animals of the world isn’t only the job of big organisations and zoos; it starts right at home. The little animals like bees that are the very foundation of all ecosystems may be easy to overlook, but they can be the easiest - and most important - to care for.
Karoline Gore, author and garden designer