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All the buzz about bees; in the wild.

REPORTS that our bee population is at crisis point as numbers have been hit by bad weather and particularly long winters should prompt responsible gardeners to protect our bees by creating a prosperous environment for them.

Last year's annual survey by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) indicated an increase in losses of honey bees and the organisation is concerned that losses may be even greater this year if the long winter is anything to go by.

Weather-related impacts such as cold spells affect colony development and queen-mating. Honey bees don't forage in very cold or wet weather, so their winter stores were depleted last year.

However, gardeners can do their bit to help bees, says Gill Maclean, BBKA spokeswoman.

"Planting the right sort of plant is important and try to plant in drifts. There are so many bee-friendly plants including thyme, oregano, mint and viburnum. Plant some trees for bees as well, including springflowering cherries, apples, plums and pears."

All blossoms are widely visited by bees including blackthorn, cherry, plum, damson and crab apple. Other trees that are widely visited are the horse chestnut for its nectar and sycamore for its pollen.

She also advises gardeners to set aside part of the garden as a decorative wildflower area which will be a magnet for bees, planting white and red clover, borage, thyme, bugle and other bee-friendly plants.

"Bees also need water, so you can do something like fill a pot lid with water and put stones in it and netting over it so that they can drink without falling in."

Last year, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) launched a guide as part of its Perfect for Pollinators initiative, listing more than 200 wildflowers, such as corncockle, teasel and wild parsnip, that provide plentiful pollen and nectar for pollinating insects.

| It advises gardeners to: | Avoid plants with double or multi-petalled flowers, which may lack nectar and pollen. | Never use pesticides on plants when they are in flower.

| Where appropriate, British wild flowers can be an attractive addition to planting schemes and may help support a wider range of pollinating insects.

| Choose flowers that bloom successively over the spring, summer and autumn.

| Provide nest sites for bumblebees: Bumblebee nest boxes can be purchased but they are often ignored by queen bumblebees.

They prefer to find their own nest sites down tunnels dug by mice or in grass tussocks. The tree bumblebee, Bombus hypnorum, has recently colonised in Britain and will often use bird nest boxes | If you want to become a beekeeper, details of county beekeepers' associations and courses can be seen on www.bbka.org.uk
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:May 4, 2013
Words:435
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