As part of its on-going Plan Bee Campaign
, The Co-operative
is mobilising some of its six million members to help conduct an annual census of bees which has been dubbed “market beesearch”.
The volunteer bee counters will be taught how to find and identify different bee species such as the white-tailed bumblebee that can often be found nesting under garden sheds and the early bumblebee that can be found nesting in bird boxes. Once trained, Co-operative members will contribute to ‘BeeWalk’, a national bee monitoring scheme run by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to establish a national picture of pollinator health.
Plan Bee is an £750,000 on-going campaign to help reverse the decline of the UK honeybee population and other at risk pollinators such as bumblebees, butterflies and moths.
The Co-operative member events, which are being held in eight regional locations across the UK, will also include classroom sessions on how to make gardens more pollinator friendly, for example, by limiting hard landscaping such as decking and growing wildflowers such as poppies, red campion and birds-foot trefoil.
Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals at The Co-operative said: “It is really important that we understand how pollinator populations change over time. Identifying the number of bees in any one area allows us to see the impact of habitat loss and the effectiveness of taking action such as planting wildflowers. Our members want to be part of the campaign to reverse pollinator decline”
The number of honeybees in the UK has halved in the last 25 years, and three quarters of butterfly species and two thirds of moths have seen population declines since the 1970’s.
“Pollinators such as honeybees and bumblebees contribute £430m to the UK economy through pollination of crops including fruit and vegetables. A further decline in their numbers could have a devastating impact on our diets in the long run.”
Dr. Ben Darvill, Chief Executive Officer of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust said: “Bumblebees have declined dramatically since the Second World War, and two species have already become extinct. It’s very important that we monitor our bee populations so that we can see if the situation is getting worse.”
“With the support of The Co-operative, our BeeWalk monitoring scheme will gather data from year to year, allowing us to spot trends in bee populations. It’s wonderful that Co-operative members are getting involved in the scheme.”
Plan Bee, which is a key element of The Co-operative Ethical Plan launched earlier this year, includes: establishing a series of wildflower “Bee Roads” across the country; support for the native British bee and encouraging the growth of urban beekeeping.
Plan Bee is an on-going campaign, worth over £750,000, to help reverse the decline of the UK honeybee population and other at risk pollinators such as bumblebees, butterflies and moths. Plan Bee focuses on four key areas:
Taking action on our farms
The Co-operative Farms will increase the number of hives on its farmland from 400 to 1,300 and seek to utilise northern European strains of honeybee where possible.
Funding new scientific research
The Co-operative will fund new scientific research into the effects of pesticides on bees, and the mapping and breeding of native bees.
Engaging our customers and members
The Co-operative helps its customers and members to become pollinator-friendly gardeners, with advice and tips, through the Plan Bee campaign and on the Plan Bee website. In addition, The Co-operative has distributed a further 300,000 packets of free wild flower seeds to Co-operative members and customers in 2011 bringing the total distributed to 900,000.
The Co-operative supports its members to take up beekeeping, and has established urban beekeeping training projects in Manchester, London, Inverness, Mid Antrim and Sheffield.
Taking action on pesticides
The Co-operative Food will continue with its temporary prohibition on the use of six neonicotinoid-based pesticides on own-brand fresh and frozen produce, which was introduced in 2009.
Find details of your local BeeWalk at: www.co-operative.coop/membership
For more information about bumblebees, and how the public can help, visit: www.bumblebeeconservation.org