Since the moment when Donna Noble mentions ‘that thing about the bees disappearing’ to The Doctor in ‘Partners in crime’ in Season 4 Episode 1 of Doctor Who, I have felt strongly about the plight of the bees. I mean whats not to love – they are adorable and fuzzy, super super useful, you might say crucial to our survival, and way nicer than wasps. People can’t care about things they don’t know about, and are unlikely to care about things they know little about, so rather than writing a preachy blog about how we should all worry about the bees I am just going to collect some fun bee facts, possibly wondering slightly into the realms of why we should care and hope that I am spreading a little bit of Bee-love. If nothing else I will learn a fair bit in writing this blog post I’m sure!
Yes I am a massive Doctor Who fan. My gardening equipment currently lives in a ‘Tardis Toolkit’ box. I will not apologise for this. And on this note here are some other Bee references in Doctor Who:
- The seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) whilst at a tea party with Thomas Jefferson claimed that Aristotle wouldn’t stop ‘wittering on about’ bees
- The doctor who explanation for the disappearing bees: Migrant Bees from the planet Melissa Majoria had been living alongside Earth’s bees for a long time, and when the Migrant Bees left earth, Earth scientists struggled to find a cause of the sudden drop in the bee population.
Here are some actual (hopefully interesting) facts about bees:
- Honey Bees are assigned jobs depending on their age – going out and collecting pollen etc is the top rung of the ladder for worker bees and they don’t get to do this until they are 22 days old (half their life span!)
- Honey Bees communicate by ‘Dancing’ – they communicate details such as the angle and distance you need to fly out to go and find a food source. The angle calculation factors in the fact that the earth is round!
- Male honey bees don’t do any work. They just laze around the hive and occasionally fertilise eggs – dyeing after they mate. The females kick them out in the winter to help conserve resources over the winter. Brilliant.
- The tiniest bees are only 2mm long!!! (a type of stingless bee) – adorable! – the biggest are 39mm (a type of leaf cutter)
- Bees like strong smelling plants like honeysuckle, whereas butterflies prefer more subtle scents
- Bees, like us, have three types of colour receptors (trichromatic) however unlike us, Bees’ colour receptors are ultra-violet, blue and green so it is thought that bees prefer blue, white and purple flowers. However this isn’t the whole story – some red flowers have ultraviolet patterns on which guide the bees onto the ‘landing pad’ – amazing!!!
- There are 250 species of bee in the UK and only 1 is a Honey Bee!
So are the bees really disappearing?
Yes. All bee species are in decline – 2 species of bumblebees in the UK have already become extinct. (https://bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/why-bees-need-help/) 20 bee species in total are gone from the UK and a quarter of our species are counted as ‘threatened species’ https://www.foe.co.uk/page/great-british-bee-count-about
This fact is no longer disputable, I’m not going to list all the evidence here, if you really don’t believe me I don’t think I will be able to convince you! But here is a report on the health of 12 iconic bee species in the UK:
I’m also not going to go into the potential causes. There are many theories, probably many factors, and lots of ongoing discussion. Maybe I will talk about them another day…
If you are interested in this here is a link to a website where you can download a review by Greenpeace into the factors endangering pollinators and agriculture in Europe:
I recently took part in The Great British Bee Count, which is run by Friends of the Earth as part of the Bee-Cause. (Get it? Bee-cause? LOVE IT) Essentially you have an app on your phone and log your bee sightings including photographic evidence. Friends of the earth then use this to monitor the health of the UK bee population. The website includes many suggestions of little ways you can help Bees should you wish to… https://www.foe.co.uk/page/the-bee-cause-act Here are some of my bee photos:
The friends of the earth website informs me that only a third of the general public can correctly identify a bumblebee and a honey bee!
So I will end with a little, extremely basic, bee guide: (I did not take these amazing photographs)
This is a bumblebee. (kalmasiope.tumblr.com) There are a few different bumblebees with white-tipped. It could be the white tipped bumblebee, but it could also be a garden bumblebee or a heath bumblebee…
This is also a bumblebee. Red-tailed probably. There is also a red-shanked carder bees but they are very rare, where as red-tailed are common. drkaae.com
Honey Bee! ihdwallpapers.com
Honey Bee! http://www.nyhomesteader.com
I’m gonna stick with just those two for now…
Hope you enjoyed,