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Beekeepers try to take the sting out of falling numbers of vital wildlife

Few creatures are more vital to our survival than bees - pollinating the world's fruit and vegetable crops.

Yet in recent years their numbers have fallen alarmingly which makes a traditional market that takes place every year in Sussex all the more important.

Andy Dickenson reports and speaks to beekeepers Jonathan Cootae and Brian Hopper, as well as president of Sussex Beekeepers Association, Amanda Millar.


Don't buzz off!

How many types of bees can you name? The answer most of you might come up with is honey, or bumble bee. But did you know there are 20,000 species around the world?

We rely on the common bees to carry out most of the world's pollination, but with their numbers dwindling - experts at Reading University say we now need to attract some of the other species to carry out the role - but how?

Divya Kohli reports.

Bee decline could affect what we eat

Experts say more species are needed to pollinate the food we eat

It's estimated a third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees - and we're not just talking honey. Their role is so important in our food chain that their contribution is worth £650 million to our economy. But experts are warning we need to act now to ensure that continues.

As bees transport pollen from flower to colony they accidentally pollinate all sorts of fruit and vegetables, which end up on our plates. But despite having 200 species here in the UK - only a couple pollinate our crops. Experts say we need to ensure other types are pollinating too, by making the right food and nesting resources available - whether on farmland, or in towns and cities. Ecologists at Reading University have compared it to a game of football.

"You might have all your stars playing on the field currently but you need to have a very strong squad on the bench so if your key player were unable to play for some reason you would need a good substitute to take up that role and that's exactly why we need to focus our efforts on conserving all the bee species that are available to us, and not just focus on the ones that are pollinating crops now."

– Deepa Senapathi, Ecologist, Reading University
Bees are worth £650 to our economy by pollinating the food we eat

The bees we rely on to pollinate crops for us now may not be around in the future because of changes in the climate, or a change in crops that grow on farmland. The University of Reading campus is a green space - full of flowers and plants. And that's what scientists are encouraging - that our urban spots have plenty of parks and gardens, or even balconies, where the right flowers and plants will attract different types of bees.

Deepa Senapathi is encouraging more species to pollinate our crops

"Pollination services in the UK are valued at £650 million per year and that was a figure from three years ago so that figure is only likely to go up so in terms of the econmomic services they provide bees are really important so you wouldn't want the economy to be hit we wouldn't be able to have the good quality strawberries and apples that we enjoy now so it impacts quality of life in very basic ways."

– Deepa Senapathi, Ecologist, Reading University

Bee population falling rapidly

Researchers at Sussex University are calling on the public to help study why the number of bees is falling. Bees play a vital role in our countryside, pollinating fruit and vegetables. But many native species are declining rapidly. Now, it's hoped that "citizen science" will provide more clues about why the insects are under threat. Malcolm Shaw reports.


Huge swarm of bees take to car in Berkshire

Bees in Bracknell got busy on a man's car Credit: David Martin

A gigantic swarm of bees settled on a car in Bracknell - proposing a sting operation of a different kind.

The bees were attracted to a man's car where he was working at Saba in Bracknell and came face-to-face with the buzzing intrusion.

A co-worker told the owner of the car, David Martin, he had ' a few bees' around his car.

But, when David went out to see, the group of bees had grown and ended up covering a large section of the vehicle.

The bees took to the man's car like honey Credit: David Martin

Record your bee sightings

People in the South are being urged to record their sightings of bees after scientists at the University of Reading warned it would cost more than £1.8 billion every year to pollunate crops by hand if the insect died out.

More than 20 UK bee species are already extinct and about a quarter of the remaining 267 species are at risk. The results from the Great British Bee Count will be published in the Autumn.

The Great British Bee Count is a fantastic excuse to get outside and see bees in action - they're fascinating, beautiful and do a vital job. The data that people collect will do an important job to help scientists fill in the blanks about where bees are thriving - and where they're in trouble."

– Bee expert professor Dave Goulson

We hope that thousands of people download the app this summer - the great thing is that you don't need to be an expert, everyone can get involved and be part of the generation that helps save our bees. We want this to become an annual event as it's a great way for people to learn more about this iconic species and work out the best ways to help them."

– Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins
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