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Bees are the Best but Rarer Species are in Decline

In some ways, bees are to planet Earth what canaries once were to coal miners. Canaries, as many may already know, served as an early warning system by becoming distressed or even dying when toxic gas in mine shafts reached dangerous levels.

This is why we should all be concerned by reports this month detailing how one-third of British wild bees are in decline at a rate that could lead to some bee species being extinct within just a few years. The research examined the fate of 353 wild bees and hoverflies in Scotland, England and Wales over a 33-year period beginning in 1980.

Obviously, we have an interest in the results; the active ingredient in our clinically proven cold sore cream, propolis, is made by bees, so we fully appreciate just how beneficial bees and bee products can be to humans and, of course, the planet in general.

Worryingly, the study found that although some common species of bees are continuing to thrive, rarer species are struggling to adapt to our cities and agricultural habits. Inevitably, this is having an impact on biodiversity and, if left unchecked, could threaten the future pollination of wild plants and flowers as well as certain essential food crops.

And it is not like we can simply cultivate hive-kept bees to redress the problem; a large proportion of wildflower and commercial crop pollination is performed by wild and rarer bees, and as such commercial bee-keeping does not seem to be a viable solution.

"It would be risky to rely on this group to support the long-term food security for our country," commented the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s Dr Gary Powney.

"If anything happens to them in the future, there will be fewer other species to step up and fulfil the essential role of crop pollination."

Unfortunately, the study identified certain “winners” and "losers". The latter group was mostly made up of solitary bees, ground-burrowing bees, upland bees, and high-altitude-dwelling species; the former group by more than 20 of the major crop pollinators.

However, it would be misleading to imagine that because certain species are thriving, the “losers” can be sacrificed; biodiversity is key to the long-term future of both bee and crop populations. We should be seriously concerned by the fact that over the 33 years of the study, every square kilometre in the UK lost an average of 11 species of bee and hoverfly.

"It's a process of homogenisation and leaves us with a natural world that is far poorer and less resilient to change," commented Dr Lynn Dicks of the University of East Anglia.

Bees – the Superheroes Fighting Cold Sores

Bees are the best. Anyone who has used our bee-derived and propolis-based cold sore cream knows this. So next time you buy a tube of Herstat, why not show your love by planting something that bees love – examples include crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, wild lilac, bee balm, cosmos, echinacea and snapdragons foxglove.

You can do this even if you don’t have a garden. Simply plant in a pot on your balcony, windowsill or window hanging basket and wait for the bees to decorate your summer.